International Ministries

May 19 Bangkok Update

May 18, 2010 Journal
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Dear Friends,

I woke up this morning to the sound of helicopters and explosions. I've been wanting to write an update on the situation in Bangkok for days. The situation changes so fast that what I write is quickly outdated. Those who follow me on Facebook have been reading moment by moment events and personal feelings and that has been easier to do than to write an update. I will try soon to get out a more comprehensive report but I want to get something out quickly so everyone knows we are safe and how to pray.
This morning, Bangkok is a war zone. The Red Shirts have taken their riots to different areas of the city and have been burning tires, cars, and buildings. This morning a group of 30 teenagers set the Narcotics control building on fire. That has now been put out. A hospital building and a couple banks have also been set on fire this morning. Black smoke fills the sky. The army has run out of patience with the rioters and this morning they have brought tanks and are breaking through the barriers set up at the Red Camp. The sound of explosions and gunfire has become a regular background noise in our environment.

NightLight is right on the edge of the Red Zone. We are closed this entire week for safety reasons as are the schools and now the entire week is an official holiday in order to keep people away from conflict zones. Most of our women cannot travel safely and most public transportation is shut down this entire week. We have been able to stay in touch with most of our women and they are still safe. There are about 5-6 who are in the middle of the areas in direct conflict but they are staying inside and are still safe. One of our women, Rin and her grandchild, First (age 3) managed to escape their room after being trapped in with no electricity or water for a couple days and listening to continuous gunfire. They are now safely resting at NightLight.

The staff and volunteers are all safe. A few of us are living in the Red Zone area and hear the explosions but we are just out of the real danger zone. It is down about 1 mile from where we are. We are keeping up with the situation step by step so that if evacuation is necessary we will be able to alert them.

I would like to express that the foreign media, have not been reporting fairly on the situation. Our Thai colleagues have actually asked us to tell the international community the truth and are very upset at the reporting that has gone out.  (In part because the Red Shirts have been more available to give their opinion and to give English messages.) This has been reported as a people's movement for justice and fair elections. (Many of these are the same people who accepted bribes from politicians to vote for them). However, when that was offered, it was rejected. These are not unarmed civilians peacefully protesting. This is guerrilla warfare which has gotten out of control. The government has tried to offer negotiation but each step was rejected as more conditions demanded by the Red Shirts. The city has been paralyzed and the economic loss is already over 100 billion baht. This economic blow is going to affect the entire country and especially the poor who will be the first to lose jobs and small businesses. At this point the government has given up on negotiations and is moving with force to save the city from destruction. It is tragic that people are losing their lives. It is a complicated situation. The deaths are not caused simply by soldiers firing in response to attacks but also because civilians not related to the conflict have come out to watch the conflict and been caught in the crossfire. There have also been many M76s used by the Red Shirts as well as firing from within their camps. There are snipers, both military and mysterious men in black who have been seen amongst the Red Shirts, though the Red Shirts deny they are using them.

Please don't write me and tell me that I don't know my facts or have the right sources. These are the feelings of many of us who love these people but are eye-witnesses to the violence and the rage that has been unleashed on the city. We feel that the government has been patient and has tried to avoid violence but have been pushed into a corner and now the situation is out of control and force seems to be the only way they can recover and prevent further destruction. The continual delays and extensions of deadlines have all been given to prevent as much violence as possible. In the meantime, the rioters spread out and began burning public and private properties. This morning they poured gasoline down the subway and began a fire, which was quickly put out, but as I write it is on fire again. It is a dangerous situation. The government may not have met the international standards, though they have tried, but at this point, all I can say is that the monster has been unleashed and we are all praying and holding our breaths for it to get back in control.

Today is a critical day for this conflict. There is no more holding back but it is now full blown conflict. Please pray for minimal casualties. Pray for the children and elderly in the camps (gov and NGO's pleaded for them to be moved but many stayed) to be sent out before the soldiers get there. Pray for the rioters to be stopped from spreading fire in the city. Pray for the many children who have witnessed shootings and warfare. Pray for restraint among the young and many inexperienced soldiers that they will use their weapons only as absolutely necessary and not too quickly in fear. Pray for Taksin who funds much of this to be convicted and call off his part in keeping it going. Pray for the Prime Minister who must be under unbelievable stress and pressure both national and international to address this conflict. Pray for the families of those whose lives have been lost already. Pray that out of this people will not grow bitter but will begin to understand the importance of the law, of democracy, of human rights, and most of all that there is hope for their future in God. Pray that the church will rise to the occasion and be prepared to bring healing and hope to a very wounded nation and people.

We appreciate your prayers and support. Yesterday a woman somehow managed to find her way to NightLight to apply for work. In the middle of this turmoil, people are still seeking freedom and a way of hope. Please continue to support us financially. We will need it now more than ever.

Thank you, I will try to get out a better report of the situation at a later time. It is hard to find the space to focus at this time. This letter is a rough one but it is one written with war at the backdoor.

Annie Dieselberg
CEO NightLight