A Catholic charity and other NGOs have been prevented by protesters and the army from rescuing women and children trapped inside a ‘red-shirt’ protest site.
“We had a meeting with several children’s NGOs in the area to discuss bringing children, women and elderly people in the protest areas to safe places,” a staff member of the Redemptorist-run Mercy Centre said.
“But we found that we could not do that because all entrances were blocked [by the army]. We also tried to negotiate with some red-shirt leaders but they did not allow people to be brought out due to the situation of mistrust.”
Women and children have taken refuge in Pathumwanaram Buddhist temple inside a cordoned-off downtown area as the government threatened to launch an assault.
Clashes over the past five days have left at least 35 dead and more than 300 injured as security forces try to end a two-month occupation by protesters in a central commercial district. The injured include several journalists and foreigners. The recent violence has been the worst since April 10, when 25 people were killed and more than 800 injured.
The Mercy Centre is a shelter for street kids, four orphanages, a hospice, a home for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS, a 400-pupil kindergarten, a community meeting place, and a serene haven in the slums with small gardens and playgrounds. Originally built on a former Buddhist Temple site on port authority property, Mercy Centre has stood in some shape or form for 30 years. In 2000, it was rebuilt through a generous gift to accommodate expanding services to orphans, street children, and children with HIV/AIDS. For more information see: www.mercycentre.org/