From Thighland to Thailand

March 7, 2019

Thailand 7:12

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 3:28 pm

Thailand 7.12

March 7, 2019-Thursday

(I posted some photos about the night market on 7.11 to take the opportunity to upload some photos since the Internet is not reliable.)

It’s amazing after a hard day’s work that there is enough energy left to have a little time to relax and eat. Maybe it’s the singing led by Kane and our Chapbook meetings that invigorate us because after that, we head for the streets. We are generally sampling the local foods but I really can’t believe we travel so far to an exotic land and some of us have pizza! Yes many of the team members miss our American (ok Italian) cuisine and go for that pizza but maybe because it’s BOGO free; that must be it. The night bazaar is a short distance from our hotel so we can make several runs. Some members fit in as locals because some tourists approached Lena and one of the twins as if they were working the booth and asked them questions about the products or pricing. LOL. There is stage in the plaza with live music and I heard a man singing an Elvis Presley song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and had to check to see if Ming had entered the talent competition, but no Ming. There is a gigantic food court and although we are tempted to try different foods, we are more confident in restaurants since the GI bug has already hit a few team members. Buyers beware: even though the merchandise is bought IN Thailand it wouldn’t be unusual if it was made outside the country (i.e. China).

We should appreciate our freedom to roam about and the freedom of choice. This luxury is not afforded to the patients that we served today. We went to Thoeng District Prison about 45 miles from Chiang Rai. It is our third trip to the prison of which 90% of the population is incarcerated for drug related offenses. We won’t have photos of the patients due to privacy issues and they wouldn’t let us take our cameras or cell phones into prison or we would have to stay in prison. No thank you. It is a little eerie going into the prison with these heavy creaking metal doors clanging shut behind you as we look ahead at the perimeter of barbed wire and high walls. Most of the inmates wear blue tops so we left our blue scrub tops behind so we don’t get inadvertently mistaken for an inmate. We had badges that we wore designating us as visitors and one team member lost theirs so we had to do a head count when we left making sure we didn’t pick up any extra bodies. We got a tour of the facility, which is divided into a women and men’s section. There is a shopping area for inmates as they can earn some money or have friends/family send them money to spend. There is a medical quarantine area if they have a communicable disease and a birthing area. Yes, some women come into prison pregnant, have their baby there for about 3 years, and then they have to give the baby up somewhere until the prisoner’s sentence is up. There were three babies that we saw, one just barely standing and the others about two years old. They have a work area to make crafts from sewing or larger pottery works so that they can learn a craft and sell them.
We recognized a few prisoners from our last visit and they remembered us. Some were wearing the glasses they received from our visit and greeted us with smiles. These prisoners look like everyday people brought together from unwise decisions. They are friendly, likeable, clean, considerate, and grateful for us to come, even to just chat with them; some prisoners even spoke English. I don’t think that they get many visitors and some prisoners are foreigners so their families are far away. We met some inmates, who are incarcerated for up to 25 years on drug charges, manslaughter, breaking legal commitments, and human trafficking. They do not look like typical thugs or hoodlums. Most of them are well kept with regards to makeup and haircuts and even some men use some type of skin lightener since lighter skin is more desirable by some. The men were seen taking showers and brushing their teeth outside in a group area. The dental team was fairly busy cleaning teeth, the eye team prescribing and making glasses, while the medical team saw a variety of conditions. I saw more inmates complain of aches and pains related to posture and how they sleep. The prison is overcrowded with about 1300 inmates where it was made for 800. There are about 75 prisoners to a room that have to sleep on the floor, sardine style or like spoons and they complain of insomnia or neck, back, and leg pain and cramping every single night. The new King Vajiralongkorn may be pardoning many prisoners soon by releasing them or shortening their terms. He did a mass pardon for 150,000 in 2016 in an act of mercy. Some of the prisoners told their story and were remorseful while others seemed to have gotten the short stick since they didn’t have the money to defend themselves despite proclaiming their innocence. Some got teary-eyed and felt helpless with their long sentences. They have families that they are needed and while these are indeed illegal activities that warranted their incarceration, Thailand has strict drug laws and severe punishment, yet still some go undeterred, until they are caught. We prayed for some and are reminded by the passage:

Psalm 69:33, “For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.”

But who is really free? Are you? As sinners, we are not free of guilt. We are imprisoned by our sins, habits, thoughts, and attitudes and we should repent. God is a strict, yet loving god. He is a forgiving God just hoping that with each action that we take will we glorify Him by being more Christ-like.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

May God have mercy on our souls.



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