Former U.S. Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, seven heads of state and 40 government ministers have been invited to Thailand's first anniversary memorial service for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, an official said Friday.
Thailand has also invited one relative of each person who died in the tsunami, and all those who were injured, a total of about 6,500 foreigners and 7,500 Thais, said Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop.
Nearly 500 foreigners have confirmed through a Foreign Ministry Web site that they will attend the Dec. 26 ceremony.
Of those invited, the government estimates 1,700 foreigners and 5,000 Thais will attend, said Suwat, who is also chairman of the tsunami one-year memorial committee.
The ceremony will include morning services on six Thai beaches and at a cemetery on the resort island of Phuket, where a temporary memorial wall was set up earlier this year.
Thailand's prime minister will preside over an evening ceremony in Phang Nga province, which suffered 80 percent of Thailand's 5,400 tsunami deaths. About half of the victims were foreign tourists. The death toll for the region was about 180,000. Thailand invited heads of state from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Singapore, Sweden and Turkey, and ministers from 19 countries, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Thai Cabinet has approved a 300 million baht (US$7.29 million, Ђ6.23 million) budget for the services, reports the AP. I.L.