Jewish Institutions Emerge Untouched After Bangkok Violence

| May 24, 2010

With quiet restored to the streets of Bangkok, Rabbi Yosef C. Kantor, the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who had urged Jewish residents in the city to pray for the peace of Thailand, reported just before the dawn of the Jewish Sabbath that communal institutions had largely been spared the effects of a mid-week crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Unlike many other neighborhoods near the central business district – where military and police forces used live rounds to respond to wholesale arson and rioting – “there was nothing at all in the immediate areas of the three Bangkok synagogues,” said Kantor, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Thailand and the Beth Elisheva Synagogue, Mikveh and Jewish Center. “While we expect small crowds due to the curfew, our centers are fully operational.”

After weeks of protests, an aborted earlier crackdown, and a rising death toll in clashes between Thailand forces and demonstrators, the government issued a final order to protesters to disperse before instituting a city-wide curfew and summarily reasserting control in neighborhoods encircling an anti-government encampment. According to The Associated Press, at least 88 people died in the protests, including 16 people killed in the final military assault May 19.

At area synagogues, while smoke filled the horizon and the sound of explosions and bullets pierced the air, Jewish worshippers marked the two-day holiday of Shavuot. Attendance was smaller than usual on the first day, said Kantor, but not by much. With curfews in effect on the second day, attendance dropped considerably.

Mourning the loss of life, Kantor said that as a foreigner living in the country, he could only pray that the post-crackdown stability would lead to a renewed time of peace.

It was a hope shared by Thai leaders, who in the midst of the cleanup, said that the next few weeks could prove difficult.

“We recognize that, as we move ahead, there are huge challenges ahead of us, particularly the challenge of overcoming the divisions that have occurred in this country,” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a nationally televised speech, The New York Times reported.

“Safety and security for all of Bangkok’s residents is of paramount importance,” said Kantor, whose center sits just a 15-minute walk from where most of the battles took place. “Everyone wants calm to be restored to our region.”

 

http://www.chabad.org/news/article_cdo/aid/1216376/jewish/Bangkok-Jewish-Institutions-Untouched.htm

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security

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