HBO hires Thais to play corpses in tsunami series

While the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 might seem like ancient history, to people in affected areas, it's not. Consider: after the "largest forensic operation in history," Thailand finished burying the last of its nearly 5,400 dead this week. Another 3,000 have never been found. And, another 270,000 people in neighboring countries were killed or missing.

So today's reports of outrage at the filming of an HBO miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath on the Thai coast is certainly understandable. That the film crews is hiring Thai people to play corpses in the production--at a third the rate they're paying western extras--is almost beyond belief.

The two-part series, starring Tim Roth and focusing largely on the plight of foreign tourists in the disaster, is scheduled to air its first episode on the tsunamis second anniversary, December 26. That focus is telling: The Nation reports that Thai extras are being paid 400 baht per day (around $10) to be in the film while western extras were making 1500 baht for the same work.

"It doesn't make me very happy that they [the film-makers] are making money out of this," said Reynolds, a 10-year resident of Krabi whose five businesses were "all but wiped out" in the tsunami.

He said the mini-series' focus on Western tourists distorted the reality of what happened. "It's tragic that so many tourists died and that so many lost family members, but Thais lost everything. They had no homes to go back to," he said.

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