Thailand: Churches offer haven from Bangkok violence

Holy Redeemer Church, Bangkok

Holy Redeemer Church, Bangkok

Catholic churches and schools are opening their doors as safe havens from the violence that has paralyzed the Thai capital. At least five Catholic centres are in areas where fighting has been fiercest.

An army crackdown on the red shirt protesters has killed at least 37 and injured 300 since 14 May.

Four families, including women, children and elderly, have moved into Holy Redeemer School, said Father Sirichai Laukobkul, parish priest of the adjacent Holy Redeemer Church in Ruam Rudee.

“They feel unsafe. The violence, smoke from burning tires, the cutting off of electricity and water supplies, and jamming of mobile-phone signals in some areas have forced people to flee,” the priest said.

Pairin Chotsakulrat, a Catholic and leader of the Peace Witness Volunteer group, said her organization asked Catholic churches and schools to aid those fleeing violence.

Our Lady of Fatima School in Din Daeng, the Sacred Heart Convent School and Mercy Centre orphans’ home, both in Klong Toei, as well as the Jesuits’ house, Xavier Hall, at Victory Monument, have answered Pairin’s call.

“Our church is prepared to accommodate the affected people and provide sleeping bags and basic necessities,” Jesuit Father Vichai Pokthavi of Xavier Hall said.

Mahidol University’s Research Center for Peace Building is also providing humanitarian support.

“We already helped 20 families move from Klong Toei district to their relatives’ homes,” Jaisiri Worathamniem, a Catholic working at Mahidol, said.

“We also provide information for community leaders on how to manage oneself if violence happens and how and who to ask for support.”

Source: UCAN

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