Father Joe Maier and his Mercy Centre were featured in the April 2006 issue of U.S. Catholic ("Suffer the children"). We received this too-up-close-and-personal report from him today on the chaos now engulfing Bangkok:
Yes, we are 'in a spot of bother.' But all safe and not threatened.
The Asian Ministers from 16 Countries returned home safely. Postponed their meeting in Pataya Thailand ( two hours car drive from Bangkok ) to a later not yet determined date a couple months from now.
How did the red mob get into the hotel in Pattaya to break up the meeting. The police and military did not completely follow given orders, and thus lead or allowed the red shirts to mob the hotel, even into the conference area. The ministers left by helicopter from the roof. Some left by fast speed boat. It was not pleasant: no one was injured. The T.V. is on, but the gov says show all the street scenes, but no public statements against the government. ( I personally agree & am appalled at the disorder of the red shirts, e.g. yesterday, they cut off entrance to TEN hospitals... the sick... something like a total of ten thousand patients were not able to see Doctors etc etc etc
As of yesterday, the Civilian ( NOT the military ) Government ordered 'emergency measures' - and are slowly clearing the Bangkok city intersections ( some 20 important traffic areas ) where the Red Shirts have barricaded with busses, taxis etc. Their purpose is to shut down Bangkok and the whole country and all traffic. I say the combined police and soldiers are acting slowly because to immediately clear the demonstrators means buckets of blood on the streets. They feel that all will be under control and 'back to normal' in another 48 hours. However, the red shirts are arming themselves and have 'kidnapped' a couple of liquid cooking gas trucks and are threatening the police and soldiers.
Throughout the Country, the same is true. The issue is that the former prime minister who is in 'on the run' but video-phoning in to his followers every night in Thailand so they can see him on the big screen, wants his money back... something like two thousand million Thai Baht and wants to make Thailand a 'failed state' so he can come back and make things all well again.
We here at Mercy are all fine and the children are all fine. There is no danger. We have told the children that if they must go out on the streets, do not wear Red coloured shirts etc and go in pairs. Although we also said.... we prefer you do not go wandering around. Some 100 people have been injured as I write this, as the Government 'firmness' began about four this morning. The time right now is almost eleven o'clock. Hospitals are alerted. All Doctors are on standby and asked to come to their hospitals. There will be perhaps five hundred people injured or bruised or suffering from tear gas today. We hope and pray there are no deaths. Thus far, no one has been killed. That is amazing and wonderful.
(Unfortunately two deaths have been recorded since Father Joe penned this message.)
Let me also say that the city of Bangkok residents have turned against the red shirts, and see the red shirts destroying the country and this the Thai New Year and long holidays. Most of the red shirts are hired ... and from the provinces and really do not care about the city. As for the rural areas... that is pretty much a toss up . . . Why the huge red shirt mob? Mostly, notice I say mostly... they are getting paid five hundred to one thousand baht a day, plus their leaders have taken their I.D. cards, so they cannot travel without these cards...
Again, let me stress, the stores are open, the T.V. is on - children are playing in the streets and enjoying our Thai New Year, even though festivities have been cancelled. But then again, no one can stop our children from playing and having fun. Just in as latest news, the big department stores are closing today at noon.
I will write to you all again tomorrow and bring you up to date again ... but once again, let me repeat... we are all safe and all the kids are safe. Also this is summer time and thus school vacation.
Pray for us all and for Thailand - Easter Blessings to you all
Fr Joe and Ms Usanee our Exec. Dir and staff.. and the children