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Thailand: The Listening Project

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photo from The Brisbane Times

As the violence and internal strife increases in Thailand, we can take some heart in knowing that there are people on the ground there who are dedicated to offering a nonviolent, loving presence.

My friend Anchalee Kurutach, a native of Thailand who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves on the board of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, took the time to translate the following statements from those involved with the project.

One of the most moving parts comes at the very end… here it is:

No matter what color shirt we wear and no matter what opinion we have, everyone is a human being who has basic needs, suffering, and pain. We all have someone we love and worry about. May all the pain we see here remind us to help each other as best as we can so there will be no more repeated history, such as this, in our society.

And here is the full translation from Anchalee:

_______________
The Listening Project, Thailand (LPT) consists of a group of volunteers whose mission is to listen to the sufferings, stories and feelings of people who are affected by the violent incidents. The volunteers are there to show sympathy and provide encouragement to all sides, while recognizing them as fellow human beings who suffer, who are in pain, and who experience loss from the incidents in ways that are no different from others. We, the Listening Project volunteers, do not point out what is right or what is wrong. We do we give guidance or use any logic to judge or blame any side. Our main duty is to listen as a friend to the sufferings of fellow human beings and then share some of those stories to the society.

On April 25, 2010, some LPT volunteers went to Lerdsin Hospital to visit the people who were injured from the explosions on Silom Road on April 22, 2010. There were nine patients receiving treatments there.

Patient #1

A 35 year-old female. She sustained an injury from the blast, which severed the ligaments on her middle and ring fingers on her right hand. She said that she worked near Silom Road and regularly commuted back and forth on this road. She had joined the demonstration after work with the Silom community contingent since Wednesday (April 21). On the day of the incident, she decided to join the demonstration and turned off her mobile phone so her family could not get a hold of her. She decided to join the protest because she disagreed with the red shirts’ ideas. And, she did not want the red shirts to close off Ratchaprasong intersection with their gathering because it had an impact on the country’s economy. She also wanted to support the government in their effort to solve this problem and did not want the dissolution of the parliament. She said, “I came to the demonstration by myself. I didn’t invite others to come along because I didn’t want to bother them. I saw how troubled the Silom community have been and I disagree with what UDD does. So I decided to join in. I didn’t expect at all that there would be a violent incident. I am just an ordinary citizen who came to the scene with my heart and with no weapon none whatsoever. There was no mob organizing and no mob leaders. There was no stage for us. We each got there on our own.”

When the incident happened, she was standing in front of Sri Ayutthaya Bank near Au Bon Pain. “There were three blasts but I thought they were nearby and didn’t think it was going to happen where I was standing. But the fourth one did explod behind my back. Everyone scattered and I ran away quickly. I didn’t even know that my fingers got hit. I felt numb on my fingers and when I lifted my hand to look at it, I was so frightened because my fingers were dangling. I was afraid my fingers would fall off completely so I used my other hand to hold them and ran for help from people nearby. Someone drove me to the hospital.”

She said she was very lucky that the shrapnel didn’t hit her wrist and abdomen. This is because when she later examined herself, she found some pieces of shrapnel embedded on her bracelet and there were holes in her purse, resulting from the shrapnel that penetrated through. It was fortunate that she had some documents and cosmetics inside so the shrapnel couldn’t get through to her abdomen. She said, “I didn’t think that just because we came out to protest the UDD, there would be people who disliked us enough to throw grenades to hurt people like this.”

Even though she was injured from the explosion, she said that she still would like the red shirts’demonstration to end peacefully. “I myself didn’t want any violent dispersion of the mob. I didn’t want anyone to be hurt. Even though my injury is just this, I still feel so much pain. If the mob is dispersed (with force), there will be more people that will be hurt like me or more than me. When I watched television and saw people getting hit or hurt, I felt pity and sympathized with them. They must have been quite hurt. Although I disagree with the red shirts, I don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

She said that after this incident, she would not go back to the demonstration again. “When it happened, I only thought of my mom at home. I was very worried about her. I was afraid she would feel miserable. I don’t want my mom to suffer from what happened to me.”

Patient #2

This patient just went through a four-hour surgery to remove the shrapnel that went deep into the right side of her throat and almost hit the main artery. She told us that there were many reasons why she went out to the demonstration that day and the day before. She lived in Saladaeng area but she said the people who came to the protest on the day of the incident (April 22) were people who lived in the area, people who worked in the office nearby, and people from other communities. They all wanted to express their opinions along side those who were affected (by the red shirts’ demonstration) on Silom Road. One important reason for her was that she wanted to show her love and devotion to His Majesty the king. Another reason had to do with her concerns for the trouble of many people who were not permanent employees of the department stores in the Ratchaprasong area. These people were very much affected by the red shirts’ demonstration because their income derived from their daily work, which they could not receive at this time. However, she did not go out to protest to fight with the red shirts. She only wanted to express her opinion. “I wanted people to see that there are also plenty of others who have different opinions.”

“I don’t know who fired the grenades. But even if it were the red shirt, I will not generalize all of them. In a family, if one person did something that is not right, it doesn’t mean the other siblings have to be blamed for it. The red shirt group is much bigger than a family. They have a variety of people.” She continued, “But for sure, I didn’t go out to fight with the red shirts and I don’t want the red shirts or any color shirts to have face the violence the way I did. I don’t want any violence at all.” She expressed her view that “in order to have diversity, we have to listen (to each other).”

“In the past, our country never saw people in conflict with one another. There were only people in conflict with the government. But it’s not like that right now. My friends who came to the demonstration are also from another province. They have relatives that are red shirts. We can have different opinions. But, we probably don’t want the other side to die or get hurt.”

She shared that she did not think anyone would throw the grenades at the gathering of “ordinary people who were without weapons and only carried the national flags” like this. On one hand, if there was a need to blame someone, she would blame herself. “However, if I hadn’t stood right there, if I weren’t the one who got hit, if that space were empty, there might have been others standing in that spot and got hurt instead of me.”

****

No matter what color shirt we wear and no matter what opinion we have, everyone is a human being who has basic needs, suffering, and pain. We all have someone we love and worry about. May all the pain we see here remind us to help each other as best as we can so there will be no more repeated history, such as this, in our society.

Listening Project Volunteers (The Listeners)
25 April 2010

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About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

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  1. Pingback: Bodhisattvas in the Trenches « The Jizo Chronicles

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