Twenty miles away in Bangkok, bullets are flying and barricades of burning tyres are sending plumes of acrid smoke into the sky. It’s a war zone in all but name. An acrimonious disagreement between the government and its detractors has overflowed into a pitched battle. Scores have died, many more have been seriously injured. Journalists and cameramen have been caught in the crossfire too.
My comfortable air-conditioned office is, mercifully, well away from the conflict. And I’m telling my friends, family and colleagues back in the UK that I’m not directly affected by the trouble. But is that entirely true?
I’m volunteering in Thailand as a communications officer for a Christian charity that cares for abandoned disabled children. That’s another example of this country’s political failure – children being shoe-horned into sub-standard accommodation where they exist rather than live. And why? Because someone has decided that they are abnormal. I’m here to raise awareness of their plight and to attract financial support for the daycare, residential care and community-based rehabilitation projects that we run.
That’s where the current unrest begins to bite. Children who are hidden away in the disabled ghetto are a ‘quiet’ problem. Literally, in fact, as they’ve learnt not to cry because they know their sobbing will be ignored. Their predicament is not as immediately dramatic as car bombs, riot shields and razor wire. I’m reminded of God getting his message across to Elijah in a ‘gentle whisper’, despite the melée (1 Kings 19).
The economic effects of the clashes have yet to be ascertained, though with hundreds of businesses in the capital having been unable to trade for several weeks, it seems certain that there’ll be less money flowing around for charities like ours to tap into.
With schools and churches also closed because of the deteriorating security situation, it’s not even possible to present our charity’s work to those who are most likely to be sympathetic.
So, am I affected by the strife? Undoubtedly. But I think I’m more affected by the feeling of powerlessness. I want to do the job I came here to do. And I want to do it well.
My creative juices are running dry, however. So over to you, MediaNet friends… any tips for getting that ‘gentle whisper’ across when the volume control of the warring factions is stubbornly set to ‘high’?
- David Giles is International Communications and Development Officer for CCD Thailand (www.ccdthailand.org)