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Pailin, the brothers move

24/04/2009: Cambodia

The Brothers community in Battambang, Cambodia, town has now taken up residence in the town of Pailin about 20 km from the Thai border and 80 km from Battambang. We moved in various stages with Bernhard especially keeping an eye on things and doing a large amount of physical work in preparing the house which will be used as a base for apostolic action. The first day that all three of us were in residence was the 19th of March – the Feast of St Joseph.

Pailin is part of the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang. Pailin City is a little town along the Thai border. Until recently, Pailin was under the sole control of the Khmer Rouge leaders and is one of the most heavily mined areas in the region around Battambang. Unofficial estimates put the number of handicapped at about 3,000, scattered in the villages and farms. The road to Pailin is currently in a very bad state. It takes 3 hours to travel the 80 kilometres from Battambang. The government is undertaking major reconstruction of the road (with occasional stories of landmines exploding beneath trucks and roadbuilding equipment) and with the completion of the road upgrade there are high hopes that services for the poor can be delivered more easily to Pailin.

Being a town bordering Thailand, Pailin sees itself developing into a future gateway from Thailand to Cambodia. But having been politically and economically isolated for many years, Pailin lacks many of the basic services such as efficiently functioning hospitals, training centres, and the like. The Catholic Parish of Pailin started in about 2003 with the presence of a few catholic families from Battambang who went there for work or to establish a small business. At present, there are about 40 members in the community, including those who are studying catechism. The activities are held in a small rented two-storey house, the ground floor measuring about 6 meters by 8 meters.

Owing to the difficulty of reaching Pailin due to bad roads, Pailin has not really developed its parish life and services. Starting January 1, 2009, the responsibility was given over to Fr. Totet Banaynal, SJ (also the general vicar of the prefecture). Fr. Totet sees that the many services that are available in Battambang can be extended to sincerely help the poor in Pailin, without any religious discrimination. Through this show of compassion for the poor, he believes we will be able to teach good values to people and, hopefully, this exposure will encourage them to study and know our Catholic Faith.

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