Friday, November 7, 2014

I knew all week that it was coming. I could feel my anxiety mounting. I worried and fretted over what little things to bring-so certain that the right thing would be the difference between a successful visit and a horrid one. (which, by the way, is so like me to focus on something manageable and doable when it is in fact my heart that needs to be preparing).

This morning I woke up and jumped out of bed (as opposed to my normal snuggling deeper under the covers that Mark loves ever so much…). I packed my bag and re-packed it once more-double checking I had all the documents and information I needed.

I met my friends at the BTS station and we went together-first to arrive-ha. I surveyed the place and people with critical eyes, feeling so immaturely that these are certainly the “bad guys” we often talk of.

I checked in, I registered my visit, and waited. I watched as wives re-packed food parcels to be given to their husbands. Watched friends and relatives and strangers all preparing for their one hour visit. I had thought I would stand out with my few bags and big pillow-but many had loads more stuff to give to their loved one.

We talked work, first, my co-workers and I. Plans for this and that to be done, and isn’t it awful that such and such thing hasn’t happened yet, and when can we do this for so and so…our normal busy minds planning for our clients. But then we watched a young teenager get brought in with handcuffs and we all fell quiet-just watched and feared and felt our hearts sink down to our toes.

With tears in our eyes we made small talk-avoiding this horrid thing right in front of us. It just wouldn’t do to cry here.

When the time came the doors were unlocked and we were lead to a small room. We arranged our parcels in baskets to be given to our friends. We put our own belongings in lockers. We went through a metal detector and got patted down-my money okayed to be given to my friend, but the pillow my friend requested deemed “too big to fit in the cell” as it is crowded with just over 90 people sharing one room..(though I dared to suggest he might share the pillow and surely room could be made…I was denied).


 And, there they were-those receiving visitors for the day. In orange shirts they stood in a line. I spotted my friend and took my place opposite him, with two chain link fences separating us. We yelled and strained to hear each other-to make some small conversation. I searched for some small word of hope to give, but it all fell flat and sounded trite.

When it was too loud and impossible to hear, I took time to survey the room. Saw my co-workers, who had organized their visit so that a husband would be able to see his wife and son (as they are housed separately). I watched a mother holding her newborn, a two year old reunited with his dad…and I really more than anything just wanted to leave that awful place.

Our hour passed and we said our goodbyes, with plans that maybe Mark can visit again soon (with a smaller pillow, just to see…). And part of me wants to think, we’ll, it wasn’t so bad. But the other part of me tells myself not to ever grow so insensitive that my heart doesn’t crumble into a million pieces when the system is wrong and 95 men share one room where pillows can’t fit, and little babies are growing up in jail and people are being holed up in tiny rooms with only one hour of outside time every three days….all because they are asylum seekers/refugees and seen as illegal immigrants in Thailand. I mean, let’s all agree and say it together – that is wrong. It’s just so wrong. 

But I'll go back...I couldn't stay away if they asked me to.


If you would like more information about the Immigration Detention Center in Thailand, Human Rights Watch recently issued a report entitled “Two Years with No Moon” which highlights the detaining of children in Thailand.  

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