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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Cockroaches to have Buddhist funeral
Cockroaches were popular pets in Thailand last year
Thailand is preparing to cremate more than 1,000 giant cockroaches - and then hold a traditional Buddhist funeral to appease their owners.

The mass cremation is the result of a government ban on the popular pets, after officials became concerned they might spread disease.

The unlucky insects being destroyed on Friday - all Madagascan giant hissing cockroaches - are thought to have been smuggled into Thailand after the ban took effect, according to the Disease Control Department.

"We wanted to destroy them a long time ago, but police said they had to keep them as evidence," a department spokeswoman told the French news agency AFP.

Unlike the traditional household cockroaches, the giant hissing variety cannot fly, and are only found in the wild in Madagascar.

But when they became the latest Thai craze in pets, health officials were concerned they could multiply rapidly and spread diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea.

Some also feared they would damage Thailand's ecological balance, and the insects were subsequently banned under the country's 1992 Wildlife Protection and Conservation Act.

The cockroaches are set for an ignominious end. The cremation will take place at a rubbish dump in the state-run Bamrasnaradun hospital in Bangkok.

"They will be put in big plastic bags and chucked onto the fire alive," Charal Trinwuthipong, head of the Disease Control Department, told Reuters news agency.

"But then we will hold a Buddhist funeral rite for them," he added.

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