Once again from Bangkok, "after the present troubles"…
All is quiet. The curfew is slowly going away. I believe Saturday p.m. will be the final night. Today, Thursday, as I write this, curfew is from Midnight till Four a.m. The first night, five folks tried to torch different parts of our Klong Toey Slum, one by dropping burning material from the expressway above the slum. All were doused in minutes. Two of the arsonists were 14-year-old kids who had been given a handful of money to throw a petrol bottle bomb anywhere they could, to burn the slum, and if they succeeded, they would get more cash.
The total slum mobilized and kept watch against strangers, and even their own. First time in my 40 years here I have seen total unity: no one - absolutely no one will burn - will torch - our slum. And that is the way it was and is. Our kids kept watch also, boys patrolling the street with a couple of slum street motorcycle gangs and the girls up the roof, keeping watch. We don't have enemies, but our buildings are large, and look flammable, (which they ain't) but you can do a lot of damage with a petrol bomb!
The loss to this beloved land is beyond counting. For most, it all started rather jovially - everyone getting a daily stipend of anywhere from a thousand Baht for people on foot to three -four thousand Baht for motorcyclists joining the rallies. A thousand Baht is 4-5 days wages for unskilled labor here in the slums and a bit more in the provinces.
Then, it all blew up. Huge buildings, banks, shops, homes got torched. Hospitals evacuated. The police were passive, allowing everything to happen. Maybe that's what they were told to do. I shall not comment on that. I think everyone was "like slapped senseless" by the reality.
Life goes on. We pick up the pieces. We are most uncertain of a calm tomorrow. We here in the slums, strongly feel this is just the beginning.
The poverty level here in Klong Toey has jumped higher. The port closed for a while. The bars closed, too, and many of the nighttime working moms of our kindergarten kids had no work - no customers. Street kids went hungry. Most of the slum still has no work - no wages. And the long term suffering is just now beginning. More and more people come to us daily for help, to begin their lives again.
Meanwhile our children are beginning the new school year.
As for us and our children, our family at Mercy Centre, thank you for your prayers and concern. Many of you asked how you could help us. I hope that I do not have to put out another letter, urgently asking, begging for your assistance. Right now, today, we are fine, unscathed physically, but emotionally pretty beat up. Some of our neighbors died, both protesters and those in uniform. Death is death.
Perhaps to finish this: One of our six-year-olds who recently came to us from the streets, proudly announced to me this morning, that ... me...fr joe.... ain't a liar!!! He now believes, just as I told him, that his front teeth are growing in because he can kind of feel the new ones coming down. But now, he wants to know how the big teeth got there in the first place.
Perhaps you can answer that.
All for now. Prayers, fr joe & Ms Usanee our Exec. Dir. and all of our children and staff