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Visit to the Marist Fathers in Thailand

05/07/2007: Thailand

Bro. Michael Flanigan’s search for new missions brings him to many countries and Dioceses in Asia. One of his most recent trips brought him to Ranong, Thailand, at the request of the Marist Fathers, to look into the possibility of working with them in their work with Burmese refugees or in close proximity with them.

In the mission in Ranong are Fathers John (New Zealand) and Joel (Philippines), Marist seminarian Gil (Philippines), and Marist volunteers Ronald (Philippines) and Alice (Malaysia).

Among the 5 Marists, much good work is being done in the city of Ranong in the fields of pastoral care, work with AIDS victims, social networking, and education.

There are presently 5 independent schools run by Burmese teachers and funded by Jesuit Refugee Services in Thailand. The Marists help in the direction of these schools and in actual teaching of English.

There is much tension between the Thai people and the Burmese, most of whom are very poor, and only very recently were provisions made for their education. So these schools began as a way to educate the Burmese children. Even now that there is a possibility for the Burmese to go to Thai schools, many choose not to because of the social stigma they feel. Another difficulty is keeping Burmese teenagers in school because as early as 11 years of age, they are expected to work to bring money into the family.

The Marist Fathers are looking into the possibility of expanding one of these 5 schools and offering a high school curriculum. That is only one of the many possibilities that could await us in Thailand if that is one of the new countries chosen. Brother Michael visited with Bishop Joseph Prathan Sridarunsil, SDB, who not only would welcome the Marist Brothers to Ranong to work with the SM, but also asked Bro. Michael to return to visit and see the many other needs of the Diocese of Suratthani.

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