Statement on the Visit to Thailand by South African Team of Experts

Pretoria-South African Deputy Foreign Minister, Sue van der Merwe confirmed today, Monday 7 February in Pretoria that a team of South African experts sent by the government to Thailand in search of 4 missing South Africans returned back home on Saturday 5 February 2005.

The team consisted of Leonie Ras, Senior Superintendent and Forensic Expert of the South African Police Services and Prof. Hendrik Scholtz attached to the Gauteng Health Department. The Team left for Thailand following consultations between Ministers Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Charles Nqakula.

The team working under the direction of South Africa's Ambassador to Thailand Ms. Buyi Pheto submitted ante-mortum records and further DNA samples of the 4 missing South Africans to the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification-International Management Centre (TTVI-IMC) with a specific focus on the four missing South Africans.

The TTVI-IMC consists of 100 members from more than 30 countries and comprises police officers, forensic experts, pathologists, and members of Interpol, logistical and support staff.

The Thai Tsunami Victim Identification-International Management Centre was of the view that the ante-mortum samples submitted by the South African team was of high quality and would assist a great deal in the process of searching for the missing South Africans.

However, given the magnitude of the tsunami tragedy, the process of victim identification is a slow one. In addition, the authorities in Thailand are working meticulously to ensure positive and reliable identification in line with internationally accepted norms.

The government has briefed the affected families of the processes involved in the search for their loved ones. In this regard, the government will continue to liaise with the Thailand authorities through Ambassador Buyi Pheto with a view to identifying the missing South Africans.

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa at 082-990-4853
Department of Foreign Affairs
P/Bag X152

7 February 2005.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa