Sherry and I spent part of an afternoon behind the barricades with the demonstrators in Bangkok recently to try and understand the situation taking place in Thailand better.
As we reached the barricade, we were a bit cautious, but found ourselves greeted with smiles from everyone we met. They were mostly country folk. Nearly half were women.
They seemed grateful that some from the outside were interested in listening to their point of view. Despite having spent the past six weeks sleeping on the concrete in temperatures reaching 105 degrees, they were surprisingly unified and in high spirits. Thais are extremely non-confrontational. To cause a disturbance of this magnitude and keep it up for so many weeks is a true sign of how deeply they feel about their grievances.
Behind the simple, dedicated legions of protesters there was an efficient organization at work. Within seconds English-speaking sentries who doubled as press secretaries were greeting us and thanking us for coming. They understood that every tourist with a camera is a reporter now and that their best chance of being heard is through a multitude of bloggers and facebookers. A guy on a bicycle rode by and handed me a DVD of the most recent shootings and said, “This is the truth” then rode away. They have porta-potties, generators, simple food service and speakers and musicians on the stage hour after hour. In articulate English, their representatives give press briefings every few hours in very polite tones. In brief, they are determined, organized and sincere.
Now to the other side. To the soldiers’ credit, although the vast majority of the 80 persons killed in the disturbances have been on the receiving end of their guns, I saw a video of soldiers having their truck assaulted by a mob of red-shirt men. They were ordered to come down from the truck which was blocked in its path by dozens of demonstrators refusing to move. Complying, they were beaten pretty seriously–and all that time they held their loaded machine guns and never fired a shot. Many soldiers have manifested a genuine hesitancy to attack their mostly-unarmed brothers.
Though these events have been centered in Bangkok, our region is the true heart to this movement so there is potential for it to spill over even up here. We have an 8pm till 6am curfew tonight.
Our prayer is that these trials will work to open hearts and minds to the hope and peace that is in Christ and that the country, in the end, will have a lasting unity and healing. That overall vision is what drove our decision to move to Thailand in the first place. We had a sense that their nation was about to go through trials that would finally bring an openness. Please keep this nation in your prayers.
Chuck and Sherry Quinley
Missionaries to Thailand
Project Number 0600031
© 2010 Church of God World Missions