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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Singapore working with Cambodia to fly bodies of five Singaporeans home

SINGAPORE : Singapore officials in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, are working with family members and the Cambodian authorities on the repatriation of the bodies of the five men who died in a dragon boat accident at the Tonle Sap River on Friday.

At this point, it is still not clear when the bodies will be brought home.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the authorities are exploring the possibility of transporting the bodies home through non—commercial flights.

Some family members of the five men have said they want to go to the site of the accident to perform some rites or offer prayers before they head home.

The bodies of the five men were found on Sunday morning, two days after their dragon boat capsized in the annual Cambodia—ASEAN Traditional Boat Race.

The body of Chee Wei Cheng was found first at about 7.50 on Sunday morning, followed by that of Jeremy Goh near to the accident area.

The bodies of Stephen Loh, Poh Boon San and Reuben Kee were washed further downstream a few kilometres away, and were found near a small island off the Tonle Sap River, in the late morning the same day.

All were found by Cambodians.

Meanwhile, the family members were visibly distressed and distraught when they came to identify the bodies of the five men at the mortuary of Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh.

Parents and siblings of the men broke down several times especially after they had to identify their loved ones.

One mother did not want to see her son’s body, so she wouldn’t have to remember him that way.

Counsellors from Singapore were on hand to help them overcome their grief and come to grips with the grim reality.

The families of the dead men all said they were very passionate and avid sportsmen.

Rower Stephen Loh’s father, 64—year—old Victor Loh, said his son even gave up an engineering career to pursue his love for sports.

Stephen, the second in the family of three boys, was a Physical Education teacher at National Junior College.

The elder Mr Loh said his son had plans to take up sports science, describing his son as "very focussed."

The brother of Jeremy Goh, who did not want to be named, said his brother enjoyed the team spirit that dragon boating offered.

He also described his brother as a very caring and good brother.

The rest of the team’s 17 rowers are expected to leave Cambodia for Singapore on Monday morning. — CNA/de

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Thailand gears up for a high-quality SEA Games in Nakhon Ratchasima

By Edward Thangarajah

SEA Games marketing chairman Santiparb Techanavanija believes the biennial celebration to be held December 6-15 in Nakhon Ratchasima will be the "best ever".

He said the fact that it is being held only for the second time in the provinces and during the auspicious year of His Majesty's 80th birthday means it has drawn striking attention from the kingdom and elsewhere.

He also said because the Games are a forerunner for next year's Beijing Olympic Games that a high standard of competition and performances should be expected.

Santiparb claims that he has already raised US$15m for the event and could have added more to the kitty had the organisers allowed him to sell television rights to the participating nations.

"I was told that all participants must be allowed to televise free of charge," he said.

"In fact I had signed Vietnam, but had to cancel the arrangement and refund their deposit."

Santiparb began his association with the SEA Games and Asian Games as a table tennis referee and served as secretary-general of the Table Tennis Association of Thailand.

He was one of those who helped build the road to friendship with China, during the time of "Ping Pong" diplomacy in the late 1960s. He has been associated with the SEA Games since 1961 and the Asian Games since its fifth celebration in 1966, which was the first of five Asiads which Thailand has hosted.

Since then he has been associated with nine Asian Games. In addition to helping with the organisation of the celebrations, he was solely responsible for raising the funds for the Games.

"The enthusiasm, support and the keenness of the people and athletes has opened the doors for Thailand to witness one of the best, if not the best Games held in Southeast Asia," said Santiparb.

Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam will take part.

Thailand has established many firsts in the Games. Besides launching the inaugural celebration, which was known as the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games in 1959. Six countries - Burma, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand - participated in 12 sports with 527 athletes in the first Games.

Thailand also enlisted Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines as members. The name was changed to SEA (Southeast Asian) Games in 1977.

The 18th edition of the biennial celebration in Chiang Mai in 1995 was the first to be held outside the capital of a hosting nation.

It was also the first time that all SEA Games members took part.

Perhaps, the most moving scene this scribe witnessed was the presence of the doyen of Asian sports, the late Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chullasapya, weak and hardly able to walk, discarded medical advise and was seated in a corner of the Chiang Mai Stadium, witnessing the track and field action.

He sat, clinging on to his walking stick congratulating the athletes.

ACM Dawee was one of those who helped elevate the SEA Games to a meaningful celebration for athletes in this part of the world.

This year, East Timor will be the youngest participant in the biennial celebration. According to Santiparp, 12,000 athletes will be part of this year's Games.

Chiang Mai made its mark in many ways and unfolded several exciting moments.

One fresh in my mind was the men's shot put event. It is normally, a dreary, long drawn out event, with muscular men trying to out-throw an iron-ball but we witnessed a memorable event in Chiang Mai.

The eyes of some 15,000 spectators were focused on the competition arena. That's because they were able to witness a titanic battle between two gladiators, Malaysia's Rahim Mohd Nazar Abdul and Thailand's Jittakorn Krasaeyan.

Rahim set the pace with a record-breaking opening throw of 16.31 metres, a mark which no one was able to beat. In fact he beat the 16-metre mark twice and held the lead, ready to capture the gold. Jittakorn had only one throw over 16 metres and that fell far behind Rahim's first effort.

Then came the sixth and final round and there was pin-drop silence in the stadium. Jittakorn took his stance and then hurled the iron-ball over 16.37 metres.

Yes, he beat Rahim's record-breaking mark.

Rahim entered the throwing circle, took his time and did try hard to beat Jittakorn, but only managed 16.20 metres, and it was Thailand's Jittakorn who not only garnered the gold, but also earned a SEA Games record.

ACM Dawee, like everyone, was so thrilled that he overlooked his feeble health and walked into the stadium to congratulate Jittakorn.

Perhaps Korat will unfold many more memorable, exciting scenes and big crowds will be there to witness the action.

I am also told that all countries will come this year with well trained teams, as they want to stake a claim to go to Beijing for next year's Olympic Games.

According to national track and field coach Supanas Ariyamongkol, one of the strongest challengers for Thailand will be Vietnam who have done hours of training, both at home and elsewhere.

Their women, particularly Vu Thi Huang who won the sprint double in Manila, clocking 11.61 seconds for the 100 and 23.77 for the 200, will go all out to complete the double again.
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