Tham Hin in Ratchaburi Province is the site of one of the nine camps for Burmese refugees in Thailand. It was established in 1997 and is today home to more than 9,500 refugees, mostly Karen.
On Monday 21st March, Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello, the present Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand, visited Tham Hin, being hosted by the local COERR staff under Sr Cecilia’s capable leadership. On being welcomed to the camp by the Thai Camp Commander and representatives of the local camp community, Archbishop Giovanni sincerely stated that “my purpose in coming here is to show my friendship and solidarity with you” and “to share with you the Church’s care for you”. This showed a key theme of the Nuncio’s visit – solidarity. He was now poignantly showing his solidarity with those suffering such a plight as these people of Tham Hin.
He expressed that he came as a “concerned and loving individual” and as the representative of both the Church and the Pope, letting camp residents know that “you are not forgotten and we care for you”. Here, he said, this is shown through the efforts of Caritas Thailand and COERR which works so closely with UNHCR and the many other NGOs active in the camps.
Of course, this is not the only camp in Thailand. In total, there are nine such camps with over 150,000 refugees from inside Myanmar. In visiting Tham Hin, Archbishop Giovanni was symbolically reaching out to all 150,000 plus refugees.
In speaking to those present at Tham Hin, the Apostolic Nuncio was speaking to all Burmese refugees in Thailand. He shared that “you are part of the Church’s life and mission”, reiterating Pope Benedict’s stance that the “Church’s work for refugees is an essential work of the Church”.
He shared his sense of gratitude for this day during mass in his homily, saying: “Here I experience the love of God for us. You give witness of God’s love to me as you go through your suffering. I thank you for this. … I came with empty hands but leave with a full heart.”
John Murray osa
21 March 2011
Sr. Cecilia Petchpanomporn, Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello, SGT. Wittamon Chaimongkon - the Camp Commander, Bishop John Bosco Panya Kritcharoen and Bishop Joseph Pibul Visitnondachai attended the Official Party at the welcoming ceremony
Apostolic Nuncio and Rev. Fr. Wicharn Kitcharoen celebrating the Mass
A presentation after mass to the Nuncio by a representative of the Catholic community.
Refugee Children singing for the Nuncio after mass in the camp church