BIC missionaries in Thailand safe, remain alert

—Tensions in Thailand have been high for months as a coalition of “red-shirt” demonstrators have rallied in the country’s capital of Bangkok in support of former Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra and in protest of the current administration, which they argue is illegitimate.

Thus far, the four BIC missionaries currently stationed in a province northwest of the city have not reported any immediate threat, though the situation across the country and in their area continues to deteriorate.

On May 16, Ray Hock, BIC World Missions regional administrator for Thailand, reported that the unrest had not yet affected airport operations, nor reached the area near the missionaries.

But early this week, as death tolls from clashes between the protesters and the military rose and violence quickly spread to outlying regions, officials extended its state of emergency declaration beyond the capital city to cover 23 of the country’s 76 provinces, including the one in which the four BIC missionaries live.

Yesterday, an update from BIC missionaries on the ground there did not communicate any serious anxiety, though they observed that the chaos in Bangkok was beginning to affect the area, which had not been the case earlier. “We still feel safe here but there are parts of the city that we are staying clear of because of the protests,” comments one missionary. “Thankfully, the hostility is in no way directed toward foreigners.”

Early reports from Thai TV this morning indicate that the town hall in this province was attacked last night by local protesters, two of whom were shot dead, and that the area is becoming a stronghold for the demonstrators.

In the midst of this increased threat, Chris Sharp, executive director of BIC World Missions, is asking the team to take a few extra precautions. “I have asked that they review their exit strategy, as well as current and practical safety issues,” she says.

Sharp also urges BIC in North America to keep the situation in their prayers. “It’s not time to worry, but to pray—for the safety of everyone involved and that the situation would dissipate quickly.”