THE Methodist Missions Society (MMS), through its social and welfare unit in Thailand, Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation, has presented fishing nets and equipment to fishermen affected by the December 2004 tsunami in a village to the north of the resort island of Phuket.
Twenty-one families, comprising about 100 people, in this small fishing village in Ban Nai Rai in Phang Nga Province, benefited from the welfare scheme. Ban (Town in the Thai language) Nai Rai is 80 km north of Phuket and is linked to the island by bridge.
The fishing village was the worst hit by the tsunami in Thailand, and the 21 families had been identified by the Thai Government’s Department of Fisheries as the ones who needed help most.
At a simple half-hour presentation ceremony at the village’s newly-built Community Hall on Aug 11, 2006, Col (Retd) Quek Koh Eng, the MMS Home Director, gave away the fishing nets and equipment to representatives of the 21 families. He was assisted by the Rev Prasert Pornkiratikul, Director of the Foundation.
The village headman, a Muslim leader, was not able to be present as he had to be at another event. However, the Department of Fisheries was represented by its Fisheries Biologist, Mr Withaya Panthakit.
In conveying his greetings from The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) and Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation, Col (Retd) Quek told the fishermen that the Church was saddened by news of the devastating effect caused by the tsunami, and decided to render help swiftly to the people in Phuket as well as those in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
“Our Church, as well as many Singaporeans, were deeply sorry for the loss of many lives and destruction of homes,” he said.
“Our response to help was swift and spontaneous. Together with YWAM, we built seven houses for families in another village, and we raised funds to purchase the fishing nets and equipment for all of you here in this village.”
Col (Retd) Quek apologised for the delay in holding the presentation ceremony as, he said, “it could not be held earlier for good reason”.
“We hope this small gift will help you to revive your livelihood in some way,” he said, and concluded: “May the peace of God be with all of you, your families and the Government of Thailand.”
In his opening address, the Rev Prasert reminded the villagers that one week after the tsunami struck, a group of Singaporean Methodists were the first people outside Thailand to render help to them.
“The Methodists from Singapore were by your side. Together with Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation, they will continue to be by your side. We hope to come back again to see how else we can help you.”
In thanking the MCS and the Foundation, Mr Withaya encouraged the villagers to be diligent. He also urged them not to sell their fishing nets and equipment for “a quick profit” as some people in other areas had done in the past.
The villagers requested the MMS to consider buying fibre-glass fishing boats for them. The wooden boats given to them by the Thai Government are not durable, they said. The ceremony ended with the presentation of gifts from the MMS and the Foundation to the Department of Fisheries.
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.
STORIES AND PICTURES BY PETER TEO IN PHUKET
A WHOLE new village has sprung up in Ban Nai Rai, in Phang Nga Province. “Civilisation” has returned to this one-time thriving fishing village wiped out by the tsunami of December 2004.
This village of about 100 families, comprising 400 people, was the worst hit area in Ban Nai Rai when the tsunami struck.
It is literally on the doorstep of the open sea, and almost 90 per cent of the villagers depend on fishing for a living.
Life was hard, but they were happy as they could make enough to feed their families. But all the little they had and their happiness were washed away by the tsunami.
Today, life is back to normal, thanks to the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) from the various countries of the world. The Methodist Church in Singapore, the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand, YWAM, Rotary International, World Vision and other organisations engaged in medical and relief work and provided assistance, in cash and kind, to the villagers.
Today, the village is dotted with pretty new houses, some on high stilts, that look like two-storey homes.
Today, the solitary road winding its way into the village that ends at sea is filled with the sound of chatter and laughter again from the children and womenfolk.
Today, the men are back at sea doing what they know best – catching fish, prawns, squids and crabs.
There is now a new Community Hall for the villagers to gather for an event or to meet for a chat.
There is even a Tsunami Warning System tower, and the road has prominent signboards indicating the direction and distances to the Evacuation Centre.
Life, it seems, is good again, but the villagers these days are more cautious and watchful of the sea. A fisherman told Methodist Message: “We don’t know what can happen again. Better be careful.”