The memorial will be located in Phang-nga province in southwestern Thailand, which had most of the country's 5,400 dead. In addition to honoring the victims, the memorial will include a museum, organizers said.
"At that ground zero, we will commemorate all the people who lost their lives," said Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop, who presided at a ceremony inaugurating the competition. "It will be a place that will educate people so that they will know what happened."
On the first anniversary of, a committee comprising five foreign architects and two Thais will select five design concepts as finalists, then develop the concepts with the aid of Thai architects, and pick the winner in May.
The design phase has a $1.2 million budget, including a $25,000 honorarium that is to be paid to each of the five finalists whose design is completed.
Construction of the winning design is expected to be finished by December 2008. The overall budget, to be provided by the government, will depend on the design, Suwat said.
At the ceremony, officials stressed that they were seeking submissions from all over the globe because the tsunami affected people from many countries. In Thailand, people from 37 different countries were among the dead.
Jit Phasompong, the vice governor of Phang-nga, said the project will help restore residents' confidence and courage, rehabilitate the environment, and attract people to the area to help revive tourism.
Suwat said the government sought to make the memorial a world class attraction, architecturally emblematic of Thailand in the same way the Sydney Opera House has come to symbolize Australia.