Maryknoll Bangkok Meetings–1

11 November 2019

The Maryknoll priests in Cambodia belong to part of Maryknoll called Asia South which includes the small groups in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Nepal. This week we are gathered in Bangkok for an annual meeting. Fr. Joe McCabe, the Maryknoll superior for the Asia Region, will be joining us.

On the way to the airport I became aware once more of some of the things that present such a contrast to Thailand where I was headed–for instance, the obsession of Cambodian drivers with straddling the lane markers. They need to keep one wheel at least over the lane line rather than staying in the center of the lane.

Today is the second day of the three-day Water Festival in Cambodia. It is one of the two biggest festivals of the year but this year you would not know it is even going on even though more than a million people were expected from the provinces for traditional boat races on the Tonle Sap River.

There are all sorts of political games going on at present, with a self-exiled leader of a dissolved opposition party announcing that he was coming back and the ruling party over-reacting, threatening, and basically acting very weak and insecure. The threat of violence, though, really upsets the population–survivors of the Khmer Rouge–and parents called students home from Phnom Penh, activities were canceled, and holiday trips postponed.

Above are one of the few signs of the Water Festival: metal barriers used for crowd control and redirecting the usually horrendous traffic of past years. This year the barriers may not be used at all! In past years there were 200+ boats competing over the three days. This year I heard there are only 40. People are just afraid to come to Phnom Penh.

At the airport, beyond passport control there was display set up in the gate area recognizing the Water Festival.
Our Bangkok Airways Airbus 319 to take us the 300 miles to Bangkok.
I got to Bangkok with no problem and traveled quickly from the airport to the Bangkok Christian Guest House where Maryknoll organizes most of our meetings. I didn’t see any of the other meeting attendees by dinner time so I took a walk out to a major street to get something to eat.
All along Silom Road large pictures of the newly crowned king are much in evidence. Thailand has a strange relationship with its monarchy, probably because of the reverence the people felt for this king’s father who died two years ago. Basically nothing can be said about the king without the offender being prosecuted under strict lese majeste laws.
One of the delights of Bangkok for me is Subway where I always eat once or twice each trip, if I can.