Thai Church Appeals for Prayer amid Political Unrest

The head of the Thai partner church of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is appealing for Christians around the world to pray for the country as it undergoes a political crisis that has thrown parts of the country in upheaval.

Although protesters began to clear out of Bangkok's main international airport on Tuesday as a court forced the prime minister from office, the week of demonstration has left hundreds of thousands of travelers still waiting for flights out of the country.

It will reportedly take weeks before the airlines can clear the backlog of an estimated 350,000 people who missed flights, according to Agence France-Presse.

"Please pray for the situation throughout our country for wisdom and humility on the part of decision makers and for a swift, just and peaceful solution to hostilities," wrote the Rev. Sayam Muangsak, general secretary of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) in an email that was received by the PC(USA)'s area coordinator for Asia/Pacific.

Anti-government protesters occupied both of Bangkok's airports last week, forcing them to close and resulting in a mass number of canceled flights. They have also occupied the prime minister compound since August.

The protesters, members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), demanded that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat be ousted from the government.

Protesters accuse Somchai of being a puppet of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of government corruption, abuse of power, and suppression of free speech.

Thaksin was removed from office by a bloodless coup by the Thai military while he was in New York in 2006.

But despite the seeming resolution between the PAD and government on Tuesday, the conflict is far from over.

Supporters of Somchai vow they will press charges against PAD leaders for their takeover of airports and Government House.

Also, the PAD has declared it will not accept any prime minister or politician linked to Thaksin. Despite its name, the PAD is not as democratic as it sounds, but rather royalist.

The PAD did not recognize the fact that Thaksin was elected by a landslide and his replacements were democratically selected.

Instead, the PAD attacked Somchai's party until it was found guilty of electoral fraud and disbanded. Meanwhile, Somchai is banned from politics for five years and Deputy Prime Minister Chaowarat Chandeerakul is now acting prime minister.

During the past months, there have been several isolated incidents of violence by both the PAD and those who oppose them (the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship or UDD).

Over the weekend, more than 50 people were injured in clashes between PAD supporters and pro-government counter-protesters.

But in addition to the political situation, the Church of Christ in Thailand also said it is worried that the global economic crisis and the expected loss in the country's tourist industry will have a long-term detrimental financial effect on Thailand.

"We here in the Church of Christ in Thailand value your prayers at this particular time," wrote CCT's Rev. Sayam Muangsak.