BANGKOK — On the grounds of a Buddhist temple, dozens of white plastic bags lay in carefully arranged rows. Each sack was knotted at the top and contained the remains of a fetus.
Thai authorities Friday found about 2,000 remains in the temple's mortuary, where they had been hidden for a year — apparently to conceal illegal abortions.
A strong stench had drawn police to the temple in Bangkok's old city Tuesday, and authorities searching the mortuary — where bodies awaiting cremation are normally kept — initially found more than 300 fetuses. They returned Friday to find more than five times that number, according to police Lt. Col. Kanathud Musiganont.
Health officials, police and charity workers counted the fetuses, placing each one in a white plastic bag bearing the name of a Chinese charity in red Thai script and Chinese characters. The charity is often involved in the handling of remains, including recovering bodies from accident scenes and organizing burials.
As the remains were laid out, Buddhist worshippers left offerings for the fetuses: milk and bananas to nourish their spirits in the afterlife.
Abortion is illegal in Thailand except under three conditions — if a woman is raped, if the pregnancy affects her health or if the fetus is abnormal.