Thailand: 'land of smiles has become a country of pain'

Assumption Cathedral, Bangkok

Assumption Cathedral, Bangkok

As fighting between Red Shirt demonstrators and police escalated in Bangkok today, leaving more than 20 dead and over 100 injured,  Fr Surasit Chumsriphan, Pastor of Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok, has appealed for the government  to intervene.

"The situation is tense and we are very worried. We ask the government to stop the violence. The parties must return to the negotiation table. If this continues, more people will die and there will be a real massacre. It is a tragedy. The Thai people do not like this violent end and all hope for a peaceful solution, he told Fides."

Fr Surasit said: "It should be noted that the Red Shirts had essentially accepted the plan proposed by the government, which could be the outline for a solution, adding only the requirement that the deputy prime minister be questioned by police, to clarify his position. But now, the government is under pressure from strong powers, lobby  groups that are pushing for a quick fix and the use of force."

The priest calls upon the patience of the civil authorities: “We ask the government to be patient with the protesters. In recent years, when there were “yellow” (another faction) demonstrators in the streets, the protest lasted up to six months, but without violence and deaths on the streets. Why act differently now? We ask the government for more dialogue and more sacrifice. In our smallness, we continue to pray for non-violence, peace, and harmony in the country."

The political crisis began last March with the occupation of the streets of Bangkok by anti-government protesters. So far, it has led to 30 deaths and over a thousand injured.

Today the President of the Bishops' Conference of Thailand,  Archbishop Louis Chamniern of Thare and Nonseng, said Thailand's religious leaders - Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim, have already met to discuss ways they could intervene and mediate between the warring parties.  "They have the confidence, credibility, and esteem of the population that today could be very useful in resolving the deadlock and avoiding more violence," he said.
"We cannot stress enough the point that the only way is dialogue: we need to lay down arms and abandon the violent solution to the crisis. I fear that the country is at the beginning of a civil war that, if it is not stopped, will become a catastrophe."

"Both factions are determined to win and seek to defend their interests, without considering the rest of the Thai population and the common good. The government accuses the leaders of the 'red' protest to be 'enemies of the crown' and 'traitors,' but this does not seem true to me and it seems a way to discredit the protest in the eyes of the nation. The Executive Branch should exert more patience and even explore new avenues of dialogue and mediation."

The Archbishop appealed for prayers. He said: "The 'Land of Smiles' seems to have become a 'country of pain.' Today we all suffer together and, at this moment, it is like being in a tunnel where you do not yet see a way out. As the Catholic Church, we continue to pray daily and in Sunday Masses for peace in Thailand. Today we ask the help and the prayer of the Universal Church to bring back peace and reconciliation to our beloved nation."

Source: Fides/ICN

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