Monday, September 18, 2006

5 bombs went off in Hat Yai - where we live...Visa changes...

5 bombs have been detonated in Hat Yai – where we live. Please read:

There were a series of bomb blasts, totaling 5 explosions, in the southern city of Hat Yai, Thailand during the weekend which appear to have targeted tourists. "There's a concern that now they're targeting tourists or areas frequented by tourists," Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, spokesman for the tourism body, said in a phone interview in Bangkok today. "That's a new development."

Hat Yai, 700 kilometres south of Bangkok, is the largest city in Songkhla province and a major commercial and tourism hub for southern Thailand. Four people were killed and over 100 injured in blasts that ripped through central Hat Yai in Songkhla province on Sept. 16. One Canadian and three Thai nationals died, and 13 foreigners, including Malaysians, an American and a Singaporean were among the injured, he said.

Violence is spilling over to Hat Yai from neighboring Muslim-Majority provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, which border Malaysia and where more than 1,700 people have died in clashes, bombings and revenge killings since January 2004, when the deep South's decades- long separatist struggle turned bloodier.

The government blames most of the deaths on insurgents seeking an independent Islamic state. The area is governed under martial law with extraordinary powers granted to the military. The deep South comprises Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces, where 80 per cent of the population is Muslim, an anomaly in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. The area was an independent Muslim sultanate called Pattani more than 200 years ago.

The last major bombing in Hat Yai occurred on April 3, 2005, when suspected separatists set off bombs at the city's international airport.
First off: no one that we knew was hurt by the bombs although one of our dear friends was going to go to the movies where one of the bombs went off but he decided not to – Praise GOD! Our friends have told us that the city and the Thai people are very scared and living in fear.

Since hearing about this John and I also learned that the Thai government has decided to change their policies regarding Tourist Visas – which affects us greatly. John and I have been able to stay in Thailand the past year and a half by doing “border runs”. “Border runs” are an extremely common practice in Thailand…the crack down is to stop foreigners from doing business in Thailand who aren’t paying taxes.

When we entered the country we received a 30 day tourist visa and after 30 days we had to go to the Malaysian border – drive through, turn around and go right back into Thailand to receive another 30 day Tourist Visa (stamp in our passport). We have done this every month since we arrived.

The country is changing its policy and we will no longer be able to do this. The change goes into effect October 1st and it states that foreigners may remain in Thailand for no more than 90 days in a six month period. This means that someone who enters Thailand without a tourist visa provided by a consulate or embassy outside of Thailand may not remain in the country any longer than 90 days from the date of the first arrival stamp.

Therefore, if a traveler were to try to spend more than 90 days in Thailand within a six month period, with for example, 3 back to back 30 days visa exemption stamps, then it is believed they would be refused entry and would have to remain outside the country for 90 days before being permitted to re-enter.

We MUST get a 1 year visa at the Thai Embassy here in the United States before we leave – which is in two weeks – October 2nd. If we are unable to do this then we will have to stay in the states until we can meet the requirements to receive a 1 year visa. If we were to go into the country we would find ourselves stranded in Malaysia at the end of 3 months and risk being arrested if we stayed over 3 months. 1 year visas for all of us will cost $125.00 per person – which is a total of $500.

Our only concern is that, as far as we know, to receive a 1 year visa under missionary specs you have to be sent by an agency and have a letter from the sending agency and have a receiving agency in Thailand. We have neither. God is at work and knows all of our needs and we are working on getting a visa ASAP. We have been told about someone who can help us with this…so please be praying that this person is willing and able to help us out with this and the money will be available.

John and I are so ready to get back!!! I am almost completely recuperated and we’re doing our best to prepare for our return…We’re hopefully going to be able to go and visit my family (I’ve never met them) in OK before we return and I am sooo incredibly excited about that. I feel like there is a ticking clock on my shoulder counting down the days and moments till we leave… - so I’m cherishing the moments as they come.

I want to apologize for not keeping the blog more updated and I hope that you will check back more frequently once we return to Thailand because I will resume my weekly posts…ok ok…yeah…they were more like bi-weekly…and monthly a few times. ;) Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers and I’ll keep you updated as we watch as God works yet another miracle in getting us back to Thailand.

Thank you so much for reading!

Philippians 4:7
7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:28
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I'll leave you guys with some pics...


Anonymous said...

Tell us how to pray for this situation with the government changes, etc.