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There was a massive at the Bon Kai community on Rama 4 Road earlier this month. The fire destroyed hundreds homes.. My friends and I spent that entire week there, hoping we could help. Pretty standard humanitarian work, if you ask me. The problem was we hadn’t any idea how naive we were being.
For me, it started with how very little news about the crisis was being reported. Everyone wrote about the fire breaking out in the community, but no following up whatsoever. So, as a journalist, I wanted to go there, raise awareness, and try to bring in the help. I didn’t understand why no one was talking about this issue.
We attended the 7pm community meeting with the people there every day. That week, my friends and I ended up going to bed at 1-2am every night as we’d been at Bon Kai until then. We learned that the people were being moved out of the area and they didn’t want to go.
On June 25, I brought an international human rights lawyer friend in. As I was just catching her up with the stories and what we’ve learned about the situation, speaking in English, inside Bon Kai Youth Centre—the main donation center and one of the rescue centers—a guard came up to us, unhappy.
“What are you doing here?! Who are you?! Are you saying anything bad about Thailand?” He asked us in Thai.
I said, “Is there a problem?” He told us that this was the donation center and people were busy loading the stuff, and asked us to move. I told him, “if we were in the middle of your way, next time, all you have to do is ask us to move out of the way, nicely. There was no need for this kind of tone.”
My lawyer friend and I moved out of the way but he would not stop asking us who we were or what we were doing. We ended up leaving the center. Another of our friend arrived and we were about to walk back into Bon Kai Youth Centre, and that was when that same guard brought the police officer to us. Asking the same thing, “Who are you? Are you saying anything bad about Thailand?” I got this second encounter on video.
We told them we were just volunteers, hoping to help, that was all. It got a bit messy, they were worried that we would paint a bad picture on Thailand. Didn’t want any foreign organizations involved.
They were aggressive towards us and blocking us from entering the Bon Kai Youth Centre, claiming this was a private property no matter how many times we kept telling them that we were just volunteers, trying to help, and that we had a lawyer with us.
That day, we got banned from entering Bon Kai Youth Centre altogether.
The following day, I shared my experience with one of my respected, older friends who is quite involved in the inner circle. That friend told me, “if you could back off now, just back off. I think there’s a chance that you could die.”
This previous Tuesday (July 5), my friends went back in again as we learned that the people were already told to leave the area. I’ve not been back since that Saturday.
I was very upset the week after what happened on that Saturday with the police and guard. Getting a warning that I could die was not so much the reason why, but I was hopeless for Thailand. My friends and I were simply trying to help find solutions from the good intention of our hearts, for not wanting to see hundreds of people being homeless, yet we were faced with that kind of response from the people in power.
It just shows me that having a good heart is not enough to make a difference in this country. What you need is power. A lot of power.