Yum Yum the elephant makes a brave attempt to promote the delights of Phuket as a tourist attraction every afternoon when she frolics in the surf at one of the island's beaches. A handful of visitors always enjoys the experience. But the little elephant's task is enormous. Thailand's fun-in-the-sun west coast is suffering a serious case of post-tsunami depression. Six months on, the big wave still surges over the holiday island's economy and through the minds of residents. According to one expert, as many as 30,000 of them need treatment for mental health problems triggered by the tragedy. Fourteen-year-old Somsak 'Mac' Kwanjai may be one. On December 26 he fled the fishing village of Nam Khem (Saltwater) north of Phuket with his father, three sisters and a brother, all packed on to a tiny Honda Wave 100cc motorcycle. There wasn't room on the bike for his mother, so she ran for her life. Now back at school in the village, Mac says: 'I am still scared of the sea. And when I have to go to the toilet I feel trapped and unable to run away.' Broad economic depression has also laid low the Andaman coast's mainstay tourism industry. The malaise has driven occupancy rates and hotel room prices to record lows. Thousands of waiters and maids are finding it harder to offer those trademark Thai smiles because their wages have been slashed and their jobs are now on the line. In the first quarter this year, overseas tourist arrivals plunged by 70 per cent, with the numbers from China, Taiwan, Japan and Russia all down by about 90 per cent. Hongkongers have actually been the most loyal visitors on what one Phuket newspaper labelled the 'Chicken Run', with numbers down by a mere 18.65 per cent. Angry local hoteliers still fume about the distorted television coverage by CNN and the BBC that gave the impression Phuket was destroyed, when only a thin seafront band suffered and most businesses hardly skipped a beat. What makes this harder to take is that as Phuket and the region plunge into deep despair, the rival island of Samui, off Thailand's east coast, is enjoying a boom, with visitor numbers up by 50 per cent. While many hotels and homes are being rebuilt, often in the same unsafe manner, the forecasts for the region are grim. Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkul has predicted a crisis extending for many months, and he blames the government in Bangkok for not releasing millions of baht in aid money. Some tsunami victims have been helped by three or four groups, while others have received nothing. Government departments and aid organisations are still struggling to co-ordinate a sensible response. Thailand's notorious commitment to form-filling has slowed soft bank loans and in the meantime hundreds of businesses have closed. The general view on aid is that the needs of the very rich and the extremely poor have been met but small businesspeople are almost universal in their criticism of lack of an adequate response. Even Nopodol Somboonsap, the Thai police general who heads the international and Thai tsunami victim identification team, says that bureaucratic red tape is hampering the important task of restoring names to as many of the 5,395 victims as possible. The number of bodies without identities is now below 2,000, but interest in the expensive task is waning. Some of the investigators now even have to provide their own paper and pens. Overall, the cost of the wave is still being calculated. On the seafront in the province of Phang Nga, north of Phuket, resorts are still being cleared of rubble, bodies are still being found, missionaries are still converting refugees to Christianity, and groups of mourners still gather amid the ruins to share their grief with the sea and the sky. Five years ago, when Phuket began to develop too rapidly for many people, it was the Swedes and Germans who led the migration to Phi Phi island or up the coast to Khao Lak. The Blue Village on Cape Coral became a popular destination, and the resort's children's club was busy that Sunday morning, when the waves swept in. 'There were 224 Swedes at the hotel and very few survived,' says Sweden's Consul General, Christer Asp. 'Families had left their children at the children's club, which was on the beach.' The consul general had three hours' notice to board a plane for Phuket from Europe and within days of the tsunami found himself heading a Swedish mission that was the biggest abroad, larger even than those in Washington or Brussels. About 460 Swedish dead have been identified and 80 - two thirds of them children - remain among the missing. Mr Asp still visits the airport to greet grieving relatives or see off the bodies of victims bound for home. But the coffins, sadly, are smaller now. 'What do you say to a mother who has lost her three children?' he asks. 'What do you say to a grandfather who has lost his son, the son's wife and the grandchildren? 'These are the kinds of things we have to do on a daily basis.' Life goes on for young Mac. His old home was swallowed by the water so the large family now live in a one-room concrete apartment several kilometres from the sea. But other refugees still live in leaky tin and plywood shacks. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's decision after the tsunami to reject international aid was, in retrospect, ill-advised. While the self-sufficiency gambit probably helped to win a Thai Rak Thai party landslide in an election just six weeks after the wave, the tsunami-hit provinces did not swing - and are now suffering a lack of practical assistance. If the next six months do not see Phuket and the region resurrected, the rest of the world will wonder at Thailand's capacity to deal with its own problems. It will take more effort than Yum Yum can muster to right the wrongs.