1991 Yearbook Report
FRANK DEWAR was a New Zealander and well acquainted with adversity. After all, he was one of the seven who sailed the South Pacific in the mid-1930’s on a 52-foot [16 m] ketch called Lightbearer. For the previous six years, he had trekked through New Zealand and ridden the waves to Australia, Tahiti, and Rarotonga, of the Cook Islands, with a burning missionary zeal. He had a message to preach. And did he preach about God’s Kingdom! Not content with evangelizing in the South Pacific, he set his sights on frigid Siberia. So, during July 1936—a hot, steamy, monsoon-wet month—what was he, at 27 years of age, doing in the strange city of Bangkok, where he knew not a soul and did not speak the language?
He and his partners, six other pioneers, or full-time preachers, had been asked by the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Australia to select a country in the Far East as their witnessing territory. Frank singled out Siam, now called Thailand, figuring that was the nearest spot to the Soviet Union.
So, from Australia, Lightbearer, with the seven courageous pioneers aboard, set sail for Singapore. After preaching for a while in Singapore and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya (now part of Malaysia), Frank packed his belongings, bought a ticket, and with five dollars left in his pocket, boarded the train headed for Bangkok, where he arrived on July 22, 1936.
The train ride to Bangkok was long and wearying and sultry and sweaty; the quarters were tight, but Jehovah God was evidently looking after young Frank—for a great work lay before him. However, Frank was not the first one to bring the good news to Siam. Claude Goodman was.
The good news of God’s Kingdom reached Thailand for the first time in 1931, when Claude Goodman from England visited Bangkok, the capital. He had begun pioneering in India in 1929. After working in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Burma (now Myanmar), and Malaya, he had to wait in Penang for a ship bound for Calcutta, India. Buying out this opportune time, he took the train to Bangkok and preached from house to house there for about one week, leaving stacks of Bible literature in English in the hands of interested people. Little did Claude know how difficult it would be to sustain the interest among the Thai. What are they and their country like?
The “Land of Smiles”
Have you ever heard of the “land of smiles”? Perhaps you have a Siamese cat. Likely you have heard of Siamese twins. These names are associated with the Kingdom of Thailand, an exotic country in Southeast Asia.
Bordered by Myanmar on the west, Laos on the north and northeast, Cambodia (Kampuchea) on the east, and Malaysia on the south, Thailand is about the size of France. Its 56 million inhabitants enjoy a tropical climate year-round. Expanses of fertile land, especially in the central plains, and ideal growing conditions make it a natural rice bowl. Its more than 1,600 miles [2,600 km] of coastal waters of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, which is an arm of the Indian Ocean, teem with marine life.
India and especially China have cast long shadows here. India dispersed the Hindu and Buddhist faiths across the “land of smiles” by means of her traders. But more than a thousand years ago, Thai people began spreading south from China. Thus, many of the Thai can trace their lineage back to those who migrated from southern China.
Since 1939 the country’s official name has been Thailand, an indication of the love of freedom its people have. How so? “Thailand” means “Land of the Free,” and while most of its neighbors were colonized during the previous centuries, Thailand managed to maintain its political independence. Another kind of liberty, however, had not been known in that country for a long time, until Goodman and then Dewar arrived. Let us see how that liberty grew among a non-Christian populace living in a land found in a “most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
Religiously a Faraway Place
Ever since its emergence as a nation in the 13th century, Thailand has been a Buddhist country. About 95 percent of the population are Buddhists, 4 percent are Muslims, and less than 1 percent profess to be Christians. Thai Buddhism is of the Theravada, or Hinayana, branch and is very tolerant. Because of the common belief that all religions are good, people frequently practice Buddhism and Confucianism at the same time. Animism is still very deeply rooted. And Brahmanism has been superimposed on many Buddhist practices.
The effects of past deeds, or Karma, are accepted in Buddhism as being responsible for one’s present station in life. Since Buddhist philosophy gives practically no thought to the existence of a superhuman being, there is no consciousness about being accountable to someone higher. Buddhists rely on themselves to gain knowledge and enlightenment. “Lord Buddha,” as the Thai respectfully call him, neither taught about God nor denied his existence.
In view of the religious environment, Thailand has indeed been a faraway place with regard to Bible truth. Christendom’s missionaries began to arrive in Thailand in the 16th and 17th centuries. Though they tried to acquaint people with the Bible, they did not help them to ‘know the truth that will set one free.’ (John 8:32) For this the Thai had to wait until well into the 20th century—for people like Frank Dewar.
Message of Liberty Reaches Thailand
The 950 miles [1,500 km] by train from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok crept slowly by for Brother Dewar. He sat upright in a crowded third-class coach for a grueling 36 hours. “I was pretty wobbly from the injuries I had sustained from an accident in Kuala Lumpur a few months earlier,” he said. “But Jehovah, through his angels, provided for me.”
Traveling on the same train was a friendly young Thai, son of a former Thai ambassador to The Court of St. James’s in England. When he learned about Frank Dewar’s purpose in coming to Thailand and that Frank’s total capital was some five dollars, he kindly looked after Frank for a while. In that way, Frank got on his feet in the new country.
Frank set to work at once spreading the Bible-based message of spiritual liberty, and for the remainder of the first year, he preached extensively in the business and residential sections of the city, concentrating on the English- and Chinese-speaking population. There was no Bible literature available yet in Thai.
More Foreign Pioneers Join
Later, on a trip to Malaya, Frank met a tall and cheerful German pioneer, Willy Unglaube, from Königsberg in East Prussia, then a part of Germany. As a zealous and adventurous pioneer, Willy had already preached in several countries, including France, Algeria, and Spain, and on the island of Corsica. At a convention in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1936, Joseph F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, suggested to Willy and his partner, Kurt Gruber, that in view of the civil war raging in Spain, it would be better for them to preach somewhere else. They searched the Yearbook to see where pioneers were needed and chose Singapore, Malaya, and Thailand. So when Frank Dewar returned to Thailand in early 1937, he was accompanied by Willy Unglaube. However, Kurt Gruber stayed on in Malaya.
In 1938 these two hardworking pioneers in Thailand were joined by John Edward (Ted) Sewell, a young Australian pioneer. Ted was fairly new in the truth, having been baptized for only two years. But at an assembly in Sydney in 1938, when Brother Rutherford called for brothers to serve in the countries of the Far East, Ted did not hesitate to make a decision. Like so many of the early pioneers, at once he said: “Here I am! Send me.”—Isa. 6:8.
In September 1939, while preaching in Penang, Malaya, Kurt Gruber was told by a friendly police official that Great Britain had declared war on Germany and that all German nationals found in British territories would be interned for the duration of the war. He advised Brother Gruber to leave Malaya immediately. Kurt jumped into his car, raced to his place of residence to pick up his personal belongings and, with the help of the official, passed the checkpoints without any trouble. He succeeded in engaging passage on a Chinese junk to Bangkok, with his car hidden under a big heap of coconuts. Great was the joy of now having four pioneers in the large field in Thailand!
Pioneering and Bedbugs
Preaching the good news was by no means easy. Although the Thai are generally very kind and hospitable, in that pretourism era, very few had direct contact with outsiders. Thus, they were not inclined to be outgoing with foreigners. The language barrier compounded the problem, as the pioneers spoke very little Thai. The publications they offered were also foreign not only in content but also in language.
On top of that, obstacles caused by the religious environment and the people’s way of thinking created more challenges. Being satisfied with their own tolerant and convenient religion, the Thai are usually not searching for something better, nor do they yearn for a Messiah to bring them deliverance.
The conditions there also required that the pioneers be content with little materially and that they get along with fewer conveniences than formerly. Having to support themselves, these roving pioneers could not afford the kind of accommodations enjoyed by other foreigners, who were there on business. On arriving in a new town, a pioneer would stay in a cheap hotel that, in most cases, was operated by Chinese. Frank Dewar remembers:
“At the railway station or at the bus or boat terminal, I would hire one ricksha for myself and another one to take my several cartons of books. For perhaps 25 satang (about 10 cents at the time), they would take me to a small hotel, where I would see the clerk and move in. The clerk would give me a small kerosene lamp and ask a room boy to take me along. The boy would show me the room, hand me a small towel, and tell me where the bathroom and toilet were. When the boy had gone, I would pour the contents of the kerosene lamp over the bed to discourage the multitudes of bedbugs, get the lamp refilled, have a bath, eat, read a bit, and finally get under the mosquito net and sweat off to sleep in that very tiny, stuffy room.”
Traveling in those days had its own characteristics too. Describing a train trip from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai, one pioneer said: “[We] had to stand all night on the platform [of the car] because there wasn’t a square inch of sitting space left; not only that, but the [train] corridors were full of bags and baskets, some of which had ducks and fowls in them, and people were squatting on these too. As the train got farther north we were sprayed with water at each station, as it was the time of the water-throwing festival, which the Siamese greatly enjoy. Traveling in the country districts is by bus in the dry season; these too, we found, were always packed with people and livestock. Or sometimes we would all have to get out while a load of rice was taken on, then we had to climb in as best we could and make the most of it.”
Prayers for a Translator Answered
During those first few years, much seed of Kingdom truth was sown in the Thai field, both in the capital and in the provinces. While working for about four months in towns of the north, Brother Dewar was able to place 2,491 books and booklets. During the 1939 service year, the three pioneers then there placed a total of 4,067 bound books and 14,592 booklets and obtained 113 subscriptions. All this literature, however, was in either English, Chinese, or Japanese. No publications were yet available in the local language except for the booklet Protection, which had been translated into Thai by a student in exchange for a set of English books.
The pioneers felt a translator was desperately needed—one who was a dedicated servant of Jehovah and would have a fervent desire to make the precious truths about Him and His Kingdom available to the Thai people. Brother Unglaube wrote to Brother Rutherford, stating that they had no translator. Brother Rutherford replied: “I am not in Thailand; you are there. Have faith in Jehovah and work diligently, and you will find a translator.” The pioneers had faith and they persevered. Jehovah did not disappoint them.
During December 1939, Kurt Gruber and Willy Unglaube journeyed north to Chiang Mai, where they found the translator they had been praying for—Chomchai Inthaphan. At the time, she was headmistress of the Presbyterian Girls’ School. Having studied at the University of Manila in the Philippines, she was well educated in the Thai and English languages. Having also a deep love of God and being zealous to serve him, she soon realized that what the two pioneers preached was the truth.
Despite opposition from the Presbyterian missionaries and enticing offers from the school, Chomchai turned in her resignation and served notice that she was leaving the church.* While still working at the school, continuing there until the end of the school year, she started translating the Salvation book. Later, when a branch office was established in Bangkok, Chomchai became one of the first members of the Bethel family. For many years Chomchai did all the translating. As a lover of felines, she also took her Siamese cat to Bethel. Though suffering from various crippling diseases during the last ten years of her life, she continued faithful in her dedicated service until her death in 1981 at the age of 73.
First Local Publishers
It appears that before getting to Chiang Mai in December 1939, Brothers Gruber and Unglaube worked the northern towns of Phrae and Nan. In Phrae a nurse obtained the booklets Home and Happiness and Protection and gave them to her friend Buakhieo Nantha, who was a nurse in Nan, and told her that the two foreigners would be coming to Nan shortly. Buakhieo, though raised a Buddhist, had become a Presbyterian two years earlier, after studying at a Presbyterian boarding school and receiving nurses’ training at a church hospital in Chiang Mai. She read the booklets with great interest. So by the time the two pioneers came to Nan, she was ready to study the Bible.
When Buakhieo was sent to Chiang Mai for more training, she again met Kurt and Willy, who by then were holding regular meetings with a group of interested persons. Chomchai had introduced the pioneers to the headmaster of the Presbyterian seminary, Kham-ai Chaiwan. After discussing the subjects of the Trinity, hell, and soul, he realized that Jehovah’s Witnesses were teaching the truth he had been searching for. He had compassion on Kurt and Willy and invited them to leave the hotel and move into his house. He made good progress in the truth. When put under pressure by his employer to compromise Bible principles, he would not budge, even though it meant losing his job and promised pension.
After four years of hard work, the efforts of the four foreign pioneers began to produce fruit. In 1940 Buakhieo Nantha, Chomchai Inthaphan, Chomchai’s fleshly sister Kaeomalun, and Kham-ai Chaiwan and his wife, Buakhieo, were baptized as the first local Witnesses of Jehovah in Thailand.
From Relative to Relative
As Jesus’ early followers were eager to tell their relatives about having found the Messiah, so these new disciples did not hesitate to preach the good news to their families and friends. (Compare John 1:41.) Brother Kham-ai had a relative, Kham Raksat, who was an elder in the church in San Kamphaeng, not far from Chiang Mai; in fact, he had built the church. Kham, like Kham-ai, was a sincere man, searching for the truth. He invited Kurt, Chomchai, and her sister Kaeomalun to his church to preach and explain the Bible. Incensed about this, the Presbyterian missionaries had some schoolteachers chase the Witnesses away. Such unchristian conduct, however, made Kham more determined than ever to continue studying the Bible with the Witnesses. Some years later, a congregation was established in San Kamphaeng. Kham became the presiding overseer, and he proudly affixed the sign “Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses” to his house. In later years many members of the Chaiwan and Raksat families came into the truth.
It was after long and deep discussions that Chomchai and Kaeomalun were able to convince their mother of the truth. She, like all the other early Witnesses in Thailand, was formerly a nominal Christian, and she had been very active in the local church at Ban Paen, some 20 miles [30 km] south of Chiang Mai. Her leaving the church caused quite a stir in the village. But her resoluteness and courage had good results when several persons in that village accepted the truth, and in time a congregation was formed.
From Chomchai’s mother, the truth was spread to Chomchai’s cousin’s family in Chom Thong, a district in Chiang Mai province, where another group of Witnesses was formed later.
So the first ones to respond favorably to the preaching of the good news in Thailand, especially in the northern part of the country, where Protestant groups existed in several towns and villages, were people with a nominal Christian background. It would yet take quite some time before the first Buddhist embraced Bible truth.
Work Continues in Spite of World War II
Since Thailand remained neutral during the first part of World War II, the foreign pioneers and local publishers were able to continue unhindered with their preaching. While Kurt Gruber and Willy Unglaube were having those thrilling experiences in the northern provinces, Ted Sewell remained in the capital, where an interested Sri Lankan family joined him in the witnessing work. In 1941, when Sister Chomchai moved to Bangkok, this family kindly received her into their home. Gradually, others, mainly Chinese, showed interest, and a congregation was organized.
Edith Mungsin, now in her 80’s, still remembers her first encounter with the congregation in Bangkok: “I came in contact with the Bible in a Protestant school. Following the death of our English father during the first world war, my three sisters and I were sent to a Protestant boarding school in Chiang Mai, where we also had Bible classes. So I learned about the history of Jesus Christ from childhood, and deep love and respect for him took root in my heart. However, quite a few questions about the Bible remained unanswered, as I was too timid to ask anybody, and we students were afraid of the teachers. Later on, I lived for a while in Singapore and returned to Thailand in 1941. On a trip to Chiang Mai, I also visited Kham-ai Chaiwan, whom I remembered as a leader among the Presbyterian community there. Since I was in a hurry to catch the train to Bangkok that day, he could hardly witness to me. But he gave me three booklets anyway and urged me to read them.
“On the train, I hurriedly took out the booklets and read them from cover to cover. I felt thrilled by the explanations of Bible teachings and at the same time astonished because this information was so different from what we had been taught in school. Wanting to find out what the truth was, I searched for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bangkok. When I found their meeting place, they were just then having a Bible study. So I sat down and joined them. One of the 12 assembled I knew very well—Chomchai, who had been a teacher in the school that I used to attend; we were very happy to meet again.
“Because of my increasing knowledge and understanding of the Bible, I stopped going to church. I also removed the cross from my neck. Two elders of the church visited me at my house and tried to make me return to church, telling me: ‘Don’t believe those false witnesses!’ I told them, ‘Let me study the Bible and make sure first. If Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong, I will return to your church.’ They never came back.”
Japanese Invasion Causes Hardships
As World War II raged on and Japan expanded its influence in the Asian and Pacific regions, Thailand finally felt the sting of war. George Powell, an Australian who had looked after the Society’s literature depot in Singapore before the work was banned there and who then moved to Thailand, remembers how, one morning in December 1941, Sister Chomchai came running down the stairs, calling out, “It’s happened!” Yes, the announcement had just come over the radio that the Japanese march into Thailand had begun. Though the Japanese military forces did not interfere very much with the daily life of the local people, economic conditions deteriorated. (The infamous bridge over the river Kwai [Khwae Noi] and the “death railroad” were built by foreign prisoners of war.) And the occupation by a foreign power that was an ally of Nazi Germany was bound to touch the preaching work of the Witnesses.
In 1941, after having served in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), two German pioneers, Hans Thomas and Wolfhelm Fuchs, were reassigned to the still-neutral Thailand. After the Japanese invasion began, however, all the foreign pioneers experienced obstacles in their preaching either because they were nationals of countries with which Japan or its ally Germany was at war or because they were nationals of Japan’s ally that bitterly opposed Jehovah’s Witnesses. In Japan itself the Witnesses had already been banned for some years.
Not many days after the invasion, the Japanese authorities had the Thai police arrest George Powell and Ted Sewell and put them into an internment camp in Bangkok for the remaining three years and eight months of the war. In 1942 the Germans Kurt Gruber, Hans Thomas, and Wolfhelm Fuchs were arrested, and the literature at the depot was confiscated. Willy Unglaube escaped arrest, since he was up-country at the time. Though the Japanese authorities tried hard to find him, he eluded capture throughout the war.
The local publishers, for the most part, were left unharmed. Nevertheless, when they preached from house to house, especially in Bangkok, Japanese plainclothesmen would follow them. Often, after a publisher would come out of a house, these men would go in and interrogate, sometimes even threaten, the householder.
One incident happened while Sisters Chomchai and Buakhieo were preaching in the northern town of Nan. The police searched their bags and took the sisters to the police station. Even a local church elder, Duangkaeo Jarityonphan, with whom they had had several discussions, was arrested. Chomchai and Buakhieo were kept in police custody for days before the case was resolved. Apparently they had been falsely accused of being fifth columnists by a Roman Catholic priest who did not like their witnessing. By the way, Duangkaeo, the church elder, eventually came into the truth.
Cut Off—But Cared For
After their arrest, the three German pioneers were detained by the Japanese military. Uninterrupted interrogation, along with cruel beatings, lasted for three days and three nights. The officers told them to sign a statement in Japanese, which they would not translate. When the brothers refused, one officer shouted angrily, “We don’t care what you say about the Kingdom of heaven, but as for the earth, the Japanese are going to rule that!”
Hans Thomas relates: “Since we were not Nazis, the German embassy did absolutely nothing for us. In fact, we were told, ‘You know what would have been done with you in Germany!’ Finally, after having been held in military confinement for weeks and weeks, we made a request to the Thai authorities please to do something in our behalf. After all, we had legally immigrated to Thailand to carry on our missionary work with the permission of the government. And as we had done nothing against the Thai government, we saw no reason why the Japanese military authorities should keep us in confinement. Since Thailand was known as a land of free people and was not legally under Japanese rule but only in a treaty of friendship with Japan, we requested to be handed over to the Thai authorities. Our request was finally granted.”
The pioneers were taken to the CID (Central Investigation Department) offices in Bangkok and kept there. The local brothers could visit them and supply them with the daily necessities of life. While they were at the CID, a report was received about the case of the sisters who had been arrested in Nan. The official in charge was also working on the case of the German brothers. When he read the report from Nan, he said, “Oh, Chomchai! Watchtower! I know these people. They are not dangerous.” Word was sent to Nan to release the Witnesses and drop the case. Not long after that, Kurt, Hans, and Wolfhelm were also freed. Incidentally, this official had previously been to the brothers’ home in Bangkok to study the Bible.
The German pioneers were cared for also in another way. Being cut off from all communication with Jehovah’s organization abroad, they were, so to speak, left on their own. At the same time, they had to be very circumspect to avoid being caught by the Japanese authorities. Some months before the Japanese invasion, the pioneers had conducted a Bible study with the manager of a Swiss import and export firm. This friendly man now came to the pioneers’ aid, engaging them as salesmen of stationery on a commission basis. This kind of job suited them well. They were able not only to cover their daily needs but also to save enough money to print booklets locally to replenish their dwindling literature supplies. And when there seemed to be trouble brewing in the territory, they could always dig out some stationery from the bottom of their big bags.
The two Australian pioneers in the internment camp were not “left in the lurch” either. (2 Cor. 4:9) George Powell says: “Our faithful German brothers and Thai sisters never failed us during those uncertain days. The fruit they brought was most welcome, but the interchange of encouragement with them was something even more refreshing that made our lives more bearable and full of hope.”
What did the brothers do after the Japanese occupation had cut off all supplies of spiritual food? They continued having regular meetings, including their weekly Watchtower Study. When no new issues were available anymore, they started using older ones, in reverse order. “The Watchtower of November 1941, with the article ‘Demon Rule Ending,’ was the last one we had received,” Brother Thomas recollects. “From this issue we studied backward year by year, hoping that one day the war would end and we would be able to get in touch with the Society. More than four long years passed. We were in the process of studying The Watchtowers of 1936 when new magazine issues began to arrive.”
Strengthened for Postwar Activity
On November 24, 1945, almost four years to the day after communications were disrupted, a cable was received from the office of the Society’s president in Brooklyn, U.S.A., informing the brothers that the worldwide witnessing work now was greater than ever before. After the surrender of Japan in August and the subsequent release of Brothers Powell and Sewell, arrangements were made to move the depot to a more suitable place that was also big enough to have meetings there. With the help of Thai officials, property was rented on Soi Decho, off Silom Road.
Before and during the war, the pioneers had been busy sowing the seeds of truth, so that now there was a nucleus of interested people. Thus, during 1946 it was most timely for the brothers to receive a shipment of literature containing Theocratic Aid to Kingdom Publishers, the Yearbook, and Organization Instructions. The pioneers devoured those valuable aids in order to “catch up,” and also to pass on the new information to their interested associates. Several new ones had started publishing, but they still had to gain a fuller appreciation for theocratic organization.
The pioneers diligently extended themselves to spread the good news by means of this new supply of literature. Thus, during the 1946 service year, the group of 14 publishers and pioneers placed 14,183 books and booklets and started 47 Bible studies. What an accomplishment for this little team!
A milestone was reached with the publishing of The Watchtower in Siamese (Thai), beginning with the January 1, 1947, issue. It was a monthly edition of 200 mimeographed copies. The Thai brothers were bubbling over with joy at now receiving solid spiritual food regularly in their own language. No longer was an interpreter needed at the Watchtower Study.
First Visit of the President
In April 1947 the then president of the Watch Tower Society, Nathan H. Knorr, accompanied by his secretary, Milton G. Henschel, made his first visit to Thailand. This occasion was marked by the first assembly ever held in Thailand. The public talk, entitled “The Joy of All the People,” was given to an audience of 275 people at the auditorium of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
The talk received good publicity in the local press. However, two newspapers accused Brother Knorr of defaming the Buddhist religion in his discourse. Such a sensitive matter brought about an immediate investigation by CID officers. It revealed that no offending statements or comments had been made. The editors of both newspapers apologized publicly for misinforming the Bangkok citizens and for the injustice done to N. H. Knorr and the Watch Tower Society. Several other newspapers published the Society’s response to the criticism, resulting in an even greater witness for the truth than the lecture itself.
Now a Branch
It was during Brother Knorr’s visit that arrangements were made to get the work better organized. To the joy of the brothers and sisters at the Bangkok depot, Brother Knorr announced that George Powell, upon graduating from the eighth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in that year, would return to Thailand as branch overseer. Thus, Thailand became a branch on September 1, 1947.
Shortly after that, Kurt Gruber was appointed as circuit overseer to visit the four congregations in the North and the one in Bangkok. These visits improved the brothers’ appreciation for theocratic arrangements and procedures, including the importance of reporting time spent in preaching. As a result, the total number of publishers during the 1948 service year jumped from 31 to 65.
A further impetus was given to the work in April 1948 by means of the first circuit assembly, held in Chiang Mai. Imagine the surprise and joy of the brothers at that assembly when they attended a Theocratic Ministry School for the very first time! Many of them came from rural villages and had little formal education, but from now on they could benefit from the theocratic education and training provided by Jehovah’s organization for his people everywhere.
The public meeting program that had started three years previously in many countries was now introduced in Thailand. Especially in Bangkok, public lectures were advertised by means of leaflets and sound cars. People attended these meetings at the local Kingdom Hall and at public schools. Once, a public talk was given at the Buddhist Association in Bangkok. It was an unusual sight to behold 125 Buddhist monks, attired in their yellow robes, seated in orderly rows and listening attentively to a lecture on the authenticity of the Bible. Afterward they asked a number of questions. The 1949 Yearbook commented on this occasion as follows: “Many of these priests are well educated and, unlike priests of the Catholic Hierarchy, they are tolerant, well-mannered and polite.”
Gilead Missionaries Open Up New Chapter
In an effort to strengthen the local organization, the Society invited Brothers Gruber and Thomas to attend the 15th class of Gilead School. Their graduation was held at the Theocracy’s Increase International Assembly at Yankee Stadium, New York, on July 30, 1950. Upon their return, they joined five other Gilead missionaries (besides George Powell) who had arrived in the meantime—Alfred Laakso from the 7th class and Joseph E. Babinski, Donald Burkhart, Gerald (Jerry) Ross, and Darrow Stallard, all from the 12th class.
During 1951 and 1952, more Gilead graduates arrived. Among them were Guy Moffatt from England and Neil Crockett from New Zealand (both of whom had first been assigned to Malaysia), Esko and Anja Pajasalmi and Elon and Helvi Harteva from Finland, and Eva Hiebert and Marguerite Rood from Canada. By the end of the 1952 service year, a total of about 20 Gilead-trained missionaries were serving in Thailand.
With so many missionaries ready to assist in the work, missionary homes were established in different parts of the country, including Chiang Mai, Nan, and Lampang in the North, Nakhon Ratchasima in central Thailand, and Nakhon Si Thammarat and Songkhla in the South. (In more recent years, missionaries were also assigned for some time to Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, and Nakhon Sawan.) These missionary homes became theocratic strongholds for the brothers by being local centers for much-needed spiritual support and encouragement.
The Challenge of Learning a New Language
A basic requirement for being an effective missionary is the ability to communicate with people in their own language—a formidable challenge for many missionaries in Thailand. The problem with the Thai language is not that it has a complicated and intricate grammar. In fact, the grammar is simple, as there are no articles, suffixes, genders, conjugations, declensions, or plurals to worry about.
Unlike the picturelike characters of Chinese, Thai has a phonetic alphabet, consisting of 44 consonants and 32 vowels that combine to form syllabic sounds. But what makes this language so different from Western languages is its tonal character, which is similar to Chinese. In Thai, there are five different tones. Depending on the tonal inflection, a word or syllable may thus have several, and sometimes quite opposite, meanings. For example, “khao” spoken in a falling tone means “rice”; in the low tone, it means “news.” If the same word is given a rising inflection, it means “white,” and in the common, or even, tone, it becomes “stench.” So a new missionary may say he brings “good rice,” “good white,” or “good stench” instead of “good news.”
Mastering such peculiarities (including some vocal sounds that are completely different from those of most Western languages) requires practice, patience, and persistence. And as with other languages, a newcomer is prone to make mistakes that can be quite hilarious. When explaining the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the religions of Christendom, one missionary wanted to tell the householder that we do not use the cross. What she really said, however, was that we do not use “pants.” “Not even the men?” wondered the householder. “Nobody,” was the sister’s emphatic reply.
Most of the early foreign pioneers and the first Gilead missionaries learned the language on their own. Later on, the Society initiated a new method to help missionaries learn the language spoken in their assignment. Laboring for 11 hours of language study a day for the first month, and 5 hours a day the second month, was no small task. The missionaries have appreciated this arrangement very much, however, for it has helped to make their preaching and teaching more effective.
Less Conspicuous Than Farangs
A highlight of the second visit of Brother Knorr in April 1951 was the introduction of the special pioneer work. Capable local brothers and sisters were assigned to assist congregations in the preaching work and to open up new territories. Not having to struggle with the local language and being less conspicuous than fair-skinned farangs, or foreigners, native pioneers have played a significant part in spreading the message and helping new ones. Currently, there are about 70 special pioneers (over 6 percent of the total publishers).
Sisters Buakhieo Nantha and Somsri Phanthuphrayun (now Darawan) were assigned as the first special pioneers, to serve in the southern city of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Brother Sa-ngat Mungsin, another special pioneer, was sent to Chiang Rai, the northernmost province bordering Myanmar. The earlier pioneers had placed much literature in those places, and these special pioneers were eager now to do the follow-up work and start Bible studies.
The two special pioneer sisters in Nakhon Si Thammarat met Kruamat, a young Buddhist woman who had her own dressmaking shop. Since she had no desire to change her religion, it required many visits with gentle persuasion to get her to take some time off from her sewing to discuss a few paragraphs in the book “Let God Be True.” Once her interest was aroused, however, she became an eager student of the Bible, and despite opposition from her family and friends, she started to associate with the Witnesses and began publishing the good news. Soon after her baptism, she became a pioneer. Sister Kruamat later married missionary Neil Crockett, and for some years they served in the circuit work. Presently she is a special pioneer in a Bangkok congregation where Neil serves as an elder.
Help Given Despite Death Threats
When Brother Sa-ngat preached in the town of Mae Sai on the Myanmar border, he had an experience that shows that people of sheeplike disposition who hunger for truth and righteousness will be found, despite isolation or opposition. In October 1951 he met a young woman, Karun Chuthiangtrong, who was born into a Buddhist family that practiced ancestor worship according to the Chinese tradition. She relates about her background:
“As a teenager, I often asked Grandmother where we came from and what happens after death. But the myths and fables I was told in reply to my inquiries did not satisfy me. In 1945, when I was 19 years old, a relative in Chiang Mai sent the family a Thai New Testament. I began reading it and noticed that it talked about God as the Creator and about the hope of everlasting life. I remember that among the literature our relative sent us were two booklets of the Watchtower Society. At that time, however, I understood there was only one kind of Christian religion.
“In 1946 I was baptized in the Presbyterian Church. Filled with zeal to tell others about the message of salvation, I wanted to become a preacher. Several times I applied for admission to schools that trained ministers, both in Thailand and in neighboring Myanmar. But somehow it never worked out.”
When Brother Sa-ngat called on Karun and was able to answer her questions clearly and reasonably, she took the book “Let God Be True.” It did not take her long to recognize the ring of truth in the good news. But it did not take long for opposition to start either. “Often,” she continues, “while we were having discussions of the Bible, our house was pelted with stones, or people would come and make a lot of noise outside to disturb us. One day an elder of the church came with a policeman, who happened to be his younger brother, and tried to intimidate me by threatening arrest if I did not stop associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Brother Sa-ngat kept receiving death threats from a group known as the Black Hand. So the Society found it advisable to reassign him to Songkhla in the south of Thailand.” Not long after that, Brother Sa-ngat was shot to death one evening in 1953; the case was never solved.
Meanwhile, Karun began to publish the good news. All on her own now and 200 miles [320 km] from the nearest congregation, she continued preaching courageously, being strengthened by visits of the circuit overseer and by literature sent to her regularly by the branch office. Following her baptism in November 1952, Sister Karun served in the full-time work for more than 20 years and, in the face of adversities, still faithfully preaches the message of real liberty.
“A Strange Name for a Man of God”
The early pioneers played a vital role in getting the work established in Thailand. Though few in number, they preached tirelessly in their vast territory. It took years before they could see results in the form of new disciples. But they endured. They had ‘put their hands to the plow,’ and they continued without letup.—Luke 9:62.
Eventually, most of them left Thailand to serve in other fields. With undiminished zeal, and love of Jehovah and their fellowmen, they persevered in the full-time work, some until their death, others right up to the present. After having pioneered for over 50 years, Willy Unglaube said: “When I look back, it seems only a short time. Being Jehovah’s messenger is the most wonderful service one could have on earth. Of course, one must have faith, much faith, to overcome all obstacles. But I always think of Proverbs 18:10. Yes, had I not taken up pioneer service, I would not have had the opportunity to experience how Jehovah cares for his servants if they depend on him. When I think of the prophecy at Isaiah 2:2, I know that there is still much work to do, and I want to keep on sharing in this work until Jehovah says it is enough.” Brother Unglaube was still serving as a pioneer in Germany when he finished his earthly course several years ago. One man in the territory once remarked that “Unglaube” (meaning “unbelief” in German) was indeed “a strange name for a man of God.”
And what about Frank Dewar, the first to stay and preach the good news in Thailand? His assignments took him to various countries on the Asian continent, including Burma, China, and India. In 1966 he returned to Thailand, where he and his Burmese wife, Lily, are still serving as special pioneers in the northern town of Chiang Rai. His son, Donald, served as a circuit overseer in Myanmar and is now assigned to Bethel in Yangon (Rangoon).
As the “Land of the Free,” Thailand has always granted religious freedom to its citizens. And Thai Buddhists are by nature tolerant. So there has never been governmental hostility or open persecution. This freedom to preach the good news openly and unhindered, one would expect, should facilitate and accelerate the work.
During the 1950’s the number of publishers did increase steadily. Many foreign missionaries, however, faced a particular kind of test, which some of them failed to meet successfully. Kaarle Harteva, Elon Harteva’s younger brother, who was a graduate of the 20th class of Gilead and a missionary during that period, comments: “While the friendliness of the people made things pleasant, after a while it became a great strain to many missionaries. The friendliness was, and still is, a part of the culture and often forms a soft wall of resistance that is difficult to overcome. Hence, serious and deep discussions were few and far between.”
Also, because of their Buddhist background, much patience was required in helping new ones fully understand Bible truths and bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah’s standards. “Our new world ways were so different,” Brother Harteva continues, “but then, the people’s background was very different too, being rooted in a very permissive religion. Many elderly sisters in those days used to chew betel nut, which stained their teeth ebony-black. Other sisters were smoking their homemade ten-inch-long [25 cm] cigars wrapped in dry banana leaf even while going from house to house. One could almost spot them from their ‘smoke signals’ in the village. I also still remember brothers smoking at circuit assemblies.” Of course, in time they gave up these unscriptural habits.
Quite a few missionaries were tested in regard to endurance and devotion to the work when they found that it would take them a long time before they could really speak the language well enough to be able to teach and give talks. And later, when the increase slowed down and years would go by without making a single new disciple, some became discouraged.
Other missionaries, however, have made that assignment their home. After 20, 30, or more years, they are still fulfilling their obligations as missionaries and are setting fine examples.
Some of the married missionaries later had families and left the missionary arrangement for that reason. Commendably, a number of those couples made up their mind to stay on in Thailand, where the need for mature ministers is so great.
Society’s Film, an Eye-Opener
With a ratio of 1 publisher to almost 100,000 inhabitants, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1950’s were little known in the country. The motion picture The New World Society in Action therefore proved to be a big help in enlightening people regarding the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Witnesses themselves also benefited greatly, for this movie opened their eyes to the worldwide scope of Jehovah’s organization, thus moving them to feel closer to it. Previously, few of them could visualize just how large and extensive God’s visible organization is and how efficiently it functions.
Esko Pajasalmi showed the film in the northern part of Thailand and in Bangkok. How did he usually advertise the film? “Early in the day, we would set up the movie screen in the village sports field where all the villagers could easily see it,” he said. “Then we would visit the school and simply enter each classroom and make a short announcement to the students and teachers. In this way the whole village got the news. After sunset, vendors with their native delicacies—peanuts and fried, cooked, and baked bananas, as well as other snacks—would arrive at the sports field one by one. They would set up their little shops and light them by means of small kerosene lanterns made from empty milk cans. Soon, converging on us from all directions were what looked like swarms of fireflies. Instead, they were our audience carrying tiny kerosene lanterns. They came by the hundreds, and often by the thousands, to see our movie.”
This film was often shown in unusual places. One of the leading Buddhist scholars in northern Thailand, Khun Maha Phon, studied the Bible with Esko for some time, and he wanted the Buddhist monks and laity to see what the New World Society was like. “So we gave several showings when many yellow-robed monks were in attendance,” recalls Brother Pajasalmi. “Sometimes we would show the film right inside the wat [temple]. I would sit in front of an image of the Buddha that was from 20 to 26 feet high [6-8 m] and operate the equipment, and the screen would be stretched across the main door, with people sitting on the floor viewing the film. It was strange to preach about Jehovah and his Kingdom in a Buddhist temple.”
One of the finest public tributes given to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Chiang Mai came from this same Buddhist scholar, Khun Maha Phon. Brother Pajasalmi remembers: “He invited us to give a lecture and show the film at the auditorium of the Buddhist Association, where he introduced us as follows: ‘You may wonder why I, a Buddhist, have invited these Jehovah’s Witnesses to show their film and to speak in this auditorium. I have studied with one of them for many months and can tell that they are different from all the other Christian religions we have seen here. They work hard at preaching, and they practice what they preach. They even do their own work in their missionary homes. If any of you, after seeing the film, finds peace with the message Jehovah’s Witnesses preach, I will be only too happy.” So while the so-called fellow Christians were busy attacking Jehovah’s Witnesses, the so-called heathen Buddhists showed much more broad-mindedness.
Kaarle Harteva concentrated on showing the same film at principal towns in the northeast. “It is amazing how we sometimes managed,” he remarked. “Once, our generator broke down in the middle of the showing. Hoping that not all of the more than a thousand in attendance would leave, I rushed into town on a hired pedicab (tricycle) to look for another generator. To my surprise, when I returned, there were more people waiting to see the movie than at first. After the showing, my partner and I were unable to hand out our tracts to every individual in such a huge crowd. So we just threw the tracts into the air. Not a single one fell to the ground.”
An open-air showing in front of the provincial town hall in Kalasin set an attendance record—over 4,200 were present. Thousands more saw the film when it was shown every day during a week-long Constitution Day fair at Lumpini Park in Bangkok.
‘We Talked Past Midnight’
In 1952 Elon Harteva and his wife, Helvi, were among the first group of missionaries assigned to Nakhon Ratchasima, the largest town in central Thailand. Using Nakhon Ratchasima as a base, Elon visited other towns in that semiarid region of the country. In Khon Kaen he met Mr. Seng Buawichai, a local preacher of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Already having some doubts about the Trinity doctrine, Mr. Seng welcomed a discussion on the subject. “We kept on talking past midnight,” recalled Elon Harteva. “And at four o’clock the next morning, Mr. Seng woke me up and started to ask more questions. In those days most houses had no electricity yet. Squatting on the floor, we read the Bible in the dim light of kerosene lamps.
“On my next visit, Mr. Seng had invited several other nominal Christians and arranged a public talk at his house. Some of the people present came from outlying villages. Visiting one of these interested persons required a 7-mile [11 km] walk through rice fields and jungle. On reaching the village, how surprised I was to find a small sala [hut] built on poles and shaped just like a little watchtower. The man had not only a Bible but also some Watchtower magazines, which he would use to explain the Bible to visitors who stopped at the hut to rest for a while on their way to other villages.”
Mr. Seng and another man in this village later got baptized.
Penetrating Into Indochina
Following Brother Knorr’s third visit to Thailand, in April 1956, efforts were made to send missionaries to the countries of former French Indochina, namely Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and they would come under the oversight of the Thailand branch. The good news first reached this region of the Indochinese peninsula in 1936, when two pioneers from Australia arrived in the city of Saigon (now named Ho Chi Minh City). One of them, Frank Rice, courageously carried on the work until he was arrested by soldiers of the Japanese war machine in 1943 and afterward had to leave the country. During 1953 and 1954, some preaching was done by an interested person, who sent his reports to the branch office in France.
After South Vietnam became a republic in late 1955, Brother Knorr asked Brother Babinski, then branch overseer in Thailand, to contact the authorities in Saigon in order to obtain permission for Watch Tower missionaries to enter the country. On June 27, 1957, the first five Gilead graduates arrived in Saigon, and the missionary home was placed under the jurisdiction of the Thailand branch.
Despite War in Vietnam, the Work Goes Ahead
The missionaries found preaching from house to house in Saigon most pleasant. The people generally received them kindly, and much literature was placed. During the first complete service year, almost 1,200 subscriptions for The Watchtower and Awake! were obtained. The disciple-making work, however, progressed rather slowly.
At first the preaching was in French, and all the meetings were conducted in French. This was the language of the “educated” class. As in the days of Jesus, not many of this class were ready to become disciples. The Society therefore encouraged the missionaries to learn and use the local language, Vietnamese. This took several years of hard work. But once the missionaries had become proficient in the local tongue and the common people ‘heard them speaking in their own language,’ many became interested.—Acts 2:6.
The booklets “This Good News of the Kingdom,” “Look! I Am Making All Things New,” and Living in Hope of a Righteous New World were translated into Vietnamese and used extensively in the Bible study work. By 1966, the 8 missionaries had been joined by 11 publishers, of whom 3 were baptized.
But what about the gruesome war that raged in Vietnam for so many years? “Instead of worrying too much about what might happen to Saigon, we keep busy preaching the good news to the multitudes of people crowded into the city who need the message of hope so much,” said a missionary who was serving in Saigon at the time. Yes, the missionaries and the local brothers applied the principle at Ecclesiastes 11:4: “He that is watching the wind will not sow seed; and he that is looking at the clouds will not reap.” Instead, they continued ‘sending out their bread upon the surface of the waters,’ and ‘in the course of many days they found it again.’ (Eccl. 11:1) During 1974 in the three congregations in Saigon, 113 publishers were serving fearlessly, yet circumspectly.
Often, angelic guidance and protection was apparently provided, as in 1968, shortly before the bloody fighting began during the Tet offensive of the Vietcong. The missionaries moved from their comfortable home in a residential area to a humble house in the Chinese section of downtown Saigon. The area where they had lived was soon occupied by the Vietcong. Robert Savage, one of the missionaries, wrote: “The Vietcong forces have attacked in full force all over Saigon. The situation is quite harsh, but not critical for us yet. The brothers have been wonderful. At the risk of their lives, they have come to us through back alleys to try to help us.”
After the Tet offensive, the missionaries and the local brothers carried on. In 1970 the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life was released in Vietnamese, resulting in many new Bible studies. The publication of The Watchtower in Vietnamese in 1971 was another great stimulus to the work. Within the first year of publication, over a thousand subscriptions were obtained for the Vietnamese edition. In 1973 Vietnam became a branch and supervised the work there until the government changed in 1975.
Cambodia Receives a Witness
On his return trip from Saigon in June 1956, Brother Babinski stopped in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. As he had done in Saigon, he contacted government offices for permission to send missionaries into the country. Back in the late 1930’s, the pioneers from Saigon had done some witnessing in Phnom Penh. But after one week, the police told them that no religious work was permitted in that Buddhist kingdom except by special authority of the king. The king, however, did not grant permission.
Brother Babinski met the minister of the interior of the royal government of Cambodia. This official seemed to be very interested and told Brother Babinski that he saw no reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses could not carry on their activities in his country. After many months of waiting, the Society was informed that the government had not come to a decision about granting the requested visas. So, in April 1958, Brother Babinski requested the honor of an interview with Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Though Brother Babinski got to talk only to the prince’s private secretary and left some Bible literature for the prince, permission to preach was granted, and in December 1958 the first four missionaries finally entered Cambodia and rejoiced to begin their evangelizing work in Phnom Penh.
Many among the large Chinese population in Phnom Penh spoke some English in addition to Chinese; and quite a number of the Vietnamese residents spoke both French and Vietnamese. The majority of the common people, however, spoke only Cambodian. Needless to say, there was a language problem. At first, meetings were held in English, and quite a few Chinese came. Then, meetings were arranged in French, and some Vietnamese attended. The missionaries tried to learn Cambodian, and some literature was published in Cambodian in order to reach the local people with the Kingdom message. But there was quite a turnover in missionaries, and none stayed long enough to become really fluent in the language. Some Cambodians studied and started to associate with the missionaries, so that during one year there was a peak of 13 publishers in the field service. The truth apparently had not touched their hearts deeply enough, since most of them drifted away.
Because of the changes in the political alignment of the government, by early 1965 it was evident that Westerners were no longer welcome in Cambodia. The visa application for Panayotis Kokkinidis, who had graduated from Gilead in 1964, was rejected. (He was subsequently reassigned to Saigon.) George and Carolyn Crawford, the last two remaining missionaries, were informed that their visas would not be renewed when they expired on May 27, 1965. Interestingly, four years earlier a formal letter had been sent to the missionaries, stating that they were to stop their public preaching. But this letter was never received, nor did the security police get their copy of it.
So the Crawfords had to leave Cambodia. Only one Vietnamese Witness remained, namely Brother Long. However, later in 1965, Brother Long was joined by an elderly Cambodian man who was baptized during one of the regular visits by the circuit overseer. This brother died faithful two years later. Brother Long, who continued on as the lone local Witness for Jehovah in that country, went to France before the Cambodian government changed hands in 1975.
Theocratic Ways Prove Successful in Laos
The third country of former French Indochina that has been under the Thailand branch is Laos. Ethnically and culturally closely related to the Thai, the people of that Buddhist kingdom to the northeast of Thailand heard the good news for the first time in 1958. In December two missionaries arrived in the capital, Vientiane. Four more followed in March 1959. At the end of 1960, six new Gilead graduates were sent to Laos, and a second missionary home was opened in Savannakhet.
By the time those arrivals of 1960 had settled down, all the earlier missionaries had left the country for one reason or another. However, some, it seemed, wanted to follow their own ideas rather than the Society’s time-tested methods. In January 1965 the circuit overseer reported that the group had only a single one-hour meeting per week. Thus, little progress was made.
It was therefore timely when the Crawfords were reassigned to Vientiane after they had to leave Cambodia in May 1965. George Crawford remembered: “After only a few days in Vientiane, we noticed that there was a strange attitude toward meetings and the way they should be conducted. Some in the group were following men, and it appeared that they were associating for material gain. We made an effort to instill a proper viewpoint and appreciation for Jehovah’s organization and the need to work closely with the branch office in Bangkok. With Brother Timothy Bortz’ help, a switch was made to conducting meetings in conformity with the Society’s suggested manner and schedule. The Laotian language started to be used. Those who were following men slowly drifted away in spite of concentrated efforts to build them up spiritually.”
When Brother and Sister Bortz had to leave the missionary service in Laos for health reasons, the Crawfords were left alone as missionaries. “It seemed to us we were fighting a losing battle to overcome the wrong attitude existing in the group and in trying to get a new start,” continued Brother Crawford. “But soon four new missionaries arrived—John and Kathleen Galisheff from Canada and Margaret Roberts and Sylvia Stratford from England. These were seasoned workers, having served as special pioneers in Quebec and in Ireland. Later in 1967, Terance Olsen from Canada and Brian Marks from England were added to our group. This extra help made the difference in overcoming the wrong attitudes. Now many new interested persons were reached and were helped to progress in the truth.”
Among them was a Laotian woman, Siphanh Lao. After she studied the Bible in Laos, she made a trip to Canada and the United States, where she was offered a high-paying but questionable job. She relates: “I did not let Satan take me back into the world by accepting a high-paying job . . . that would have caused me to break my neutrality as a Christian.” Instead, she decided to return to Laos and get baptized. In fact, Siphanh was the first Laotian Buddhist in Vientiane to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Before that, many people in the territory would say, “You don’t have any Lao in your religion.” This changed now. Siphanh’s younger brother, Bunhoeng, progressed very quickly in the truth and became a special pioneer in 1972.
Sister Crawford comments: “I remember when there were only six of us at the meetings during 1965 and 1966. At our first circuit assembly, we ended up with nine in attendance for the Saturday evening program, with most of them on the platform for the demonstration. In contrast, at the circuit assembly in 1971, we had 75 in attendance, and 99 attended the Memorial in 1974.”
When a new government took over in Laos in late 1975, there were two fine theocratically operating congregations functioning, one in Vientiane and the other in Savannakhet. Some preaching had also been done in the town of Pakse, farther south. All the missionaries had to leave Laos. However, the Crawfords and the Galisheffs have continued their loyal service in Thailand.
Brother Franz Comes to Thailand
Let us now go back to the work in Thailand. Frederick W. Franz, the Society’s vice president at the time, made his first visit to Thailand in January 1957. This was a big event for the native brothers. They had never met him, although they had heard much about him. A three-day assembly was arranged in Bangkok to coincide with his visit.
During the special meeting with the missionaries, the matter of having a suitable publication for the non-Christian population was brought up. The book “Let God Be True” had been published in Thai back in 1949 and was used extensively in the Bible study work. However, it concentrated on refuting the wrong teachings of Christendom, with which most Buddhist people were not familiar. Thus, it would be desirable to have a book that simply explained true Bible teachings to people who had little Scriptural background.
Brother Franz did not say much at the time. But when in 1958 the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained was released, how the brothers appreciated this timely provision by Jehovah’s organization! When it became available in the Thai language in 1961, over 50,000 copies were distributed in the field. With its beautiful illustrations and large size, people accepted the book, even though the contribution for it amounted to almost one day’s wages of a laborer.
Printing the Good News in Thai
Though the number of copies printed of the Thai edition of books and magazines is comparatively small, the brothers in Thailand have always been provided with spiritual food at the proper time in their own language. Most major bound books of the Society have been published in Thai. In 1952, when the circulation of The Watchtower reached 500, the magazine started to be printed by a commercial firm in Bangkok. (Since January 1, 1947, it had been mimeographed by the brothers.) Then, beginning with the October 1, 1971, issue, The Watchtower became a semimonthly magazine. And since 1978, Awake! has been published monthly. Not only does this mean a more varied spiritual diet for the brothers but Awake! has a greater appeal to the Buddhist readership.
Whether a few thousand or several million copies of a book or magazine are printed, the translation, typesetting, proofreading, and artwork take about the same amount of time for any language. So quite a lot of work is being done at the branch office, where 16 regular members of the Bethel family and several auxiliary branch workers are currently serving the needs of their brothers and of interested people throughout the country.
Local Pioneers—Gilead Trained
Among the 103 students of the 31st class of Gilead, whose graduation exercises took place in 1958 during the memorable Divine Will International Assembly in Yankee Stadium, New York, were two pioneers from Thailand—Brother Bantoeng Chantraboon and Sister Buakhieo Nantha. Brother Bantoeng had been appointed circuit overseer in 1956. He still serves as a special pioneer in the north of Thailand. Sister Buakhieo was one of the first two special pioneers in Thailand. She continued zealously in the special pioneer work until her death in 1986. Sister Somsri Darawan, Buakhieo’s special pioneer partner, had graduated with the 20th class of Gilead in 1953. For many years she has been assisting full-time with the translation work at the branch.
Several other local full-time workers received training at Gilead School and returned to their home country to further the Kingdom interests. The latest group, arriving in 1979, comprised Asawin Urairat, who is now on the Branch Committee, and his wife, Chiwan, as well as Sakda Darawan (Somsri’s son), who is serving as substitute circuit overseer, and Sister Srisuphap Vesgosit, who is a missionary at the Thon Buri missionary home.
New Branch Location and Oversight
Since the end of World War II, the Society had leased property for the branch office and missionary home at 122 Soi Decho, a familiar site to many residents of Bangkok. When, in 1957, the owner wanted to raise the rent exorbitantly, Brother Knorr felt it was time to purchase some land and construct a branch building. In 1959 suitable property was obtained at 69/1 Soi Phasuk, Sukhumwit Road, in a fine residential area not far from the city’s business district.
By October 1961 the contractor was able to begin construction. When completed six months later, the two-story building included a large Kingdom Hall and six bedrooms. The Bethel workers, three at the time, together with six missionaries, were happy to move from temporary facilities in Soi Lang Suan into the comfortable new quarters.
Shortly before construction began in 1961, a change in oversight of the branch took place. Joseph Babinski, who had replaced George Powell in that assignment in 1950, had to leave the missionary service because of family responsibilities. On September 1, 1961, Paul Engler was assigned to be branch overseer. Born in Germany, Brother Engler came to Thailand after graduating from the 20th class of Gilead. He served as missionary in the northern city of Chiang Mai for almost six years before moving to Bethel in 1959. All three branch overseers—Brothers Powell, Babinski, and Engler—provided valuable direction to the Kingdom work in Thailand.
A Time of Sifting
During the period of 1945 to 1960, there was a steady increase in the number of publishers, over 20 percent in some years. Then, suddenly, the numbers dropped. The 1961 service year ended with a 1-percent decrease. In the following three years, the drop accelerated, to 4 percent, 5 percent, and 12 percent respectively, before slowing down to 3 percent in 1965 and 1 percent in 1966. By then, the number of publishers was down to 265 from a peak of 382 in 1960. What had happened?
In retrospect it appears that the Kingdom Ministry School held in 1961 opened up a time of sifting. Darrow Stallard, who by then had served as circuit overseer for many years, conducted one class of the school in Chiang Mai and another one in Bangkok. During the course, the qualifications for Kingdom publishers were reviewed. The congregation overseers who attended the course, together with some special pioneers and missionaries, were made to realize that those who share with Jehovah’s Witnesses in their activity must be leading a life that harmonizes with Scriptural requirements. This had sometimes been overlooked. Some newly interested people had started in field service before they were Scripturally qualified. Others had been baptized even before having their marital affairs straightened out.
When the counsel received at the school was put into practice, many publishers were found to be no longer qualified to preach. Some even did not want to make necessary changes. During 1962, therefore, a total of 9 persons were disfellowshipped, and during the following four years, 25 more had to be disfellowshipped—unusually high numbers for Thailand. This was a discouraging time for weaker ones, causing some of them to become inactive. However, an event in 1963 perked up the faithful ones.
Largest Assembly Ever
Great joy reigned when the announcement was heard that Bangkok would be included in the around-the-world “Everlasting Good News” assemblies in 1963. Now at one of their own assemblies, the brothers in Thailand would be able to experience firsthand the international scope of Jehovah’s organization. Preparing for the assembly and making the necessary arrangements for almost 600 foreign delegates was quite a task, since the visitors outnumbered the country’s publishers by 2 to 1. With 961 in attendance for the public talk on the subject “When God Is King Over All the Earth,” this was the largest assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses ever held in Thailand.
Before this it had been rare for such a large group of tourists to visit that country. No wonder the event received extensive newspaper, radio, and television publicity! The arrival of Brother Knorr was covered by TV. Six radio stations broadcast 15-minute programs that had been prepared. At least ten newspapers reported on the assembly and the movements of the world travelers. One headline blared: “The Biggest Airlift Since the GIs.”
Help From the Philippines
In December 1963, when Denton Hopkinson from the Philippines branch in Manila visited Thailand as zone overseer, he spotted the need for experienced workers to stimulate the local brothers in the field ministry. At that time Gilead School was emphasizing the training of overseers, and most of the missionaries that had left Thailand had not been replaced. So Brother Hopkinson recommended that special pioneers from the Philippines be sent to Thailand to help with the work. “But,” he told the branch overseer, “we can send you only sisters. We need all our brothers ourselves.” Later on, some Filipino brothers were sent too.
The recommendation was approved by the Society, and by the middle of 1964, the first two sisters—Rosaura (Rose) Cagungao and Clara dela Cruz—arrived. They were assigned as special pioneers to work the huge territory in the province of Thon Buri, across the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok. A year later they were brought under the missionary arrangement, even though they had not studied at Gilead. Happy developments ensued when Sister Cagungao married the branch overseer, Paul Engler, and Sister dela Cruz became the wife of Diego Elauria, another Filipino missionary in Thailand.
As it turned out, the missionaries from the Philippines mingled very well in the territory in Southeast Asia, looking very much like the local people and being able to work the territory less conspicuously than European or American missionaries. Thus, over the years, additional missionaries were sent from the Philippines not only to Thailand but also to South Vietnam, Laos, and other Asian countries. Currently, there are ten Filipinos serving as missionaries in Thailand.
The work was just beginning to speed up again when in October 1966 the flag-salute issue came to the fore. Earlier, in November 1965, the son of an isolated publisher refused for conscientious reasons to participate in the flag ceremony. When his father explained the matter in a rather blunt way, the district chief and the local education official made a report to the Ministry of Education, enclosing a copy of the book “Let God Be True.” In response to a very urgent letter to the branch office on October 31, 1966, the branch overseer, Paul Engler, and his assistant, Guy Moffatt, went to the Department of Religious Affairs at the Ministry of Education.
The brothers explained to the director-general of the department that Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the flag of whatever country they live in, that they show this respect by obedience to the country’s laws, but that they ask to be excused from performing an act of worship toward an image. Such worship is contrary to the law of our God, Jehovah. (Matt. 4:10) The official, however, insisted that the nation came before religion and maintained that the flag salute had nothing to do with religious worship.
Five months later, Brother Engler was called to the CID for questioning. The matter had been passed on to the Ministry of the Interior. During eight hours, spread over three days, Brother Engler explained to the investigating police captain in detail our religious stand on the flag-salute issue. He also related that many countries are tolerant of Jehovah’s Witnesses whenever the same issue comes up.
After carefully listening to Brother Engler’s reasoning, the police captain decided that the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Thailand just need to stand quietly while the other students perform the flag-salute ritual. He then submitted a report to the higher authorities for consideration.
What would the decision be? In times past, government officials had always been fair and kind to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many a prayer was offered up “concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high station” in order that God’s people may go on “leading a calm and quiet life,” carrying on without restrictions. (1 Tim. 2:1, 2) About a year later the answer was revealed in an indirect manner.
Only a day or two after Brother Engler had finished his interview at the CID, five new missionaries arrived from the Philippines. Their applications for immigrant status would have to be cleared by the CID. For a whole year, there was no response. Then, in April 1968, the missionaries were informed that their applications had been approved. This was also an indication of how the authorities had decided on the flag-salute incident. But there has been no official reply.
Two Publications Banned
One of the publishers in an up-country province noticed an announcement posted at a public building. It was an order by the director-general of the Police Department that the Thai editions of “Let God Be True” and “This Good News of the Kingdom” had been banned in the Kingdom of Thailand. It was a shock! The order had been published on March 29, 1968, but the Society had not been notified. However, by then the book “Let God Be True” was already out of stock. More than 13,000 copies of it had been placed during the 16 years of its use. Why should the “Good News” booklet be banned? What could possibly be considered offensive? Furthermore, because of its simplicity and straightforwardness, the brothers very much liked to use this booklet for starting Bible studies.
The official contacted was very apologetic when pointing out that the passage in question was the sentence: “It is wrong for man to try to make an image of God to worship.” He explained that since Buddhists like to make images of the Buddha, some might feel offended by this statement. When Brother Engler told him that the booklet was not talking about the Buddha at all but about Jehovah God, the Creator, the official replied, “Then you should say so.” He would not object if the word “God” was replaced by “the Creator.” “But,” he added, “you will have to change the title of the booklet too because this title is banned now.”
So, since that time, the title of the “Good News” booklet in Thai has been This Good News Has to Be Preached.
Fruitful Territory in Refugee Camps
Following the government changes in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in 1975, refugees poured into Thailand—including many of the Laotian brothers who found it necessary to leave their home. In the Lao Refugee Center located near Nong Khai on the banks of the Mekong River, a congregation was operating for some time, with 20 and more publishers reporting. The brothers made good use of their time by witnessing to other refugees, many of whom had never heard of the good news in their home country. A good number of interested persons started publishing, and several got baptized while in the camp.
An old Lao woman, a Buddhist, was invited by one of Christendom’s missionaries to attend church in the camp. She was addicted to betel nut and tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to quit the habit. She mentioned her problem to the missionary, who replied, “Never mind. You can chew betel nut or smoke and still be a Christian. Just take your spittoon with you to church.” Since the old woman felt that chewing betel nut was morally wrong, she thought to herself, “If they allow you to chew betel nut or smoke, they probably allow you to tell lies or to steal too.” So she did not go to their church. Not long after this, one of our sisters contacted her in the field service. Almost immediately the old woman asked: “Can you chew betel nut in this religion?” When the answer was no, she realized that the Witnesses are different, and she started to study the Bible.
She told her 65-year-old friend about what she was learning. That lady, also addicted to betel nut, could not read. So our sister and the old woman taught her how to read and write. Both interested ladies began attending meetings regularly. However, they had great difficulty in overcoming their problem of chewing betel nut. It was not until they studied the chapter on the use of drugs in the book True Peace and Security that they found the strength to quit the habit. When the circuit overseer visited the congregation in the camp, they told him how clean they felt now, and they proudly opened their mouths in broad smiles to show him their teeth, which were not black anymore. Both of them got baptized in the camp.
Since the three brothers serving as elder and ministerial servants of this congregation could not leave the camp to attend the Kingdom Ministry School, the school came into the camp. The circuit overseer visited them and went through the whole course with them.
Eventually, all the brothers in the camp were resettled in other countries. In some places, Laotian-speaking groups and congregations have developed from that stalwart little group of refugee Witnesses.
Integrity Tested by the Blood Issue
Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons based on the Bible. (Acts 15:28, 29) Since the use of blood for medical treatment is still a common practice, and in Thailand the doctor’s opinion is generally accepted by the patient without question, many brothers have faced severe tests of integrity.
For example, Araya Tanchakun, a special pioneer who was pregnant, suddenly began to hemorrhage. Rushed to the hospital, she was diagnosed as having placenta previa—a condition in which the placenta has descended and blocked the birth canal. She was given a saline solution, but the doctors told her that blood would have to be administered in case of further hemorrhaging.
She explained her stand to every doctor who came on duty. One of them, who said he knew Jehovah’s Witnesses from the United States, suggested that blood be administered secretly, ‘without telling the organization.’ Sister Araya emphasized that her decision was a matter between her and Jehovah, not men. Another doctor cited the case of Buddhist monks, who normally may not be touched by a woman. But if sick in a hospital, they can be attended to by female nurses. “Are there not similar exceptions in your religion?” he questioned. When the answer regarding blood transfusions was no, he expressed regret that in Thailand doctors could not get a court order to administer blood. He did not give her much hope, especially in view of her approaching delivery. When she left the hospital a few days later, the hospital staff made it clear that they would accept her back only if she consented to accept blood. Well, her test was not over yet.
Phonthipa Teeraphinyo, a sister from another congregation, put Araya in contact with a doctor who had once helped her in connection with the blood issue. About a week later, Araya went into labor and began to hemorrhage again. When this doctor at the second hospital noticed her very weak condition, he got worried and changed his mind. He told Araya and her husband that just giving her an anesthetic in that condition might kill her. They remained firm, however. Her husband asked him to proceed without blood and told him he would thank him for his efforts even if his wife were to die. When the doctor also noticed that there were some 30 Witnesses anxiously waiting at the hospital, he was impressed and agreed to perform a cesarean section without blood.
Everybody was happy and relieved when Araya gave birth to a healthy girl, her eighth child, and she herself was all right. Knowing that the couple had been full-time preachers for many years, and being impressed by this demonstration of faith, the doctor even refused to accept any payment.
‘If I Die, Don’t Cry’
A few weeks after Araya left the hospital, Phonthipa, the sister who had introduced her to the helpful doctor, made a visit to thank him for respecting our religious conviction and performing the operation without blood. The doctor noticed that Phonthipa’s nine-year-old son, Seri, was very pale. A subsequent blood check revealed that he had leukemia. The only known treatment for this illness, the doctor said, was blood transfusions.
What was Seri’s reaction? “Even if I have to die today or tomorrow, I won’t accept any blood, not even a drop,” he told the doctor. He not only knew God’s law on blood but was also ready to uphold it under all circumstances. When he overheard several doctors saying that his mother’s belief on blood was unreasonable, Seri defended her, saying: “Don’t scold my mother! You doctors only blame her because you haven’t studied God’s Word.”
About six weeks after Seri’s condition had been diagnosed, he was admitted to the hospital. He adamantly refused blood despite persuasive pressure from the doctors. He progressively weakened and was given morphine to relieve his pain. Throughout his ordeal, however, Seri displayed remarkable faith. Without ceasing, he talked about the hope of living in the coming earthly Paradise. At one point he told his mother: “Mother, if I should die, tell Father not to cry, and you, Mother, don’t cry either, but be cheerful because we were able to pass Satan’s test.” Seri died faithful, leaving a good example for other young ones in maintaining integrity under test.—Prov. 22:6.
Youths Take a Stand for the Truth
In Thailand the readiness with which many young people accept the truth and become publishers contrasts sharply with the indifference of most older people, who are strongly attached to tradition. The greater open-mindedness of the younger generation has helped some of them to take up studying the Bible and become Witnesses for Jehovah. Many have to put up a fight for the truth, as their parents and other relatives are opposed. This perseverance usually helps them to become spiritually stronger.
Many young publishers are giving a good witness in school by their fine conduct and uncompromising stand for true worship. Once a year, on wai khru day, all schools arrange for a special program, accompanied by religious ceremonies, in which the students pay homage to their teachers. At one school, three young brothers explained to the headmaster ahead of time the reasons why they could not take part in the program and asked to be excused. Nevertheless, they were required to be present but were given opportunity to express their respect to the teachers without participating in the religious ritual.
On wai khru day, the three were called in after the ceremony was finished. About 70 to 80 teachers were seated on the stage in front of more than a thousand students. In a short talk, our brothers pointed out that Jehovah’s Witnesses keep the matter of giving due respect to the teachers separate from worship. They can and should show respect everywhere and at all times, even outside the school premises. Their worship, however, is given exclusively to the Creator, Jehovah God. The teachers and fellow students liked what they heard. When the brothers finished, the hall echoed with thunderous applause.
Efforts to Get Official Recognition
Until the early 1970’s, most of the missionaries assigned to Thailand were granted permanent residence. In other respects also, the authorities were broad-minded and accommodating. Nonetheless, when the brothers tried to have the Society registered or incorporated so as to ‘legally establish the good news,’ the officials replied that there was no need for it. (Phil. 1:7) The director-general of the Department of Religious Affairs stated in a letter in 1974: “Since this association has the main purpose of preaching and teaching Christian religion, it is not necessary to form an association. You may carry on with the activities according to that purpose; so, refrain from forming an association for the time being.”
A year later, when two new missionaries applied for immigrant visas, the Immigration Division required a letter from the Department of Religious Affairs certifying that the applicants were missionaries. However, the Department of Religious Affairs refused to issue such a letter on the grounds that the Watch Tower Society was not registered with the department. The reply to another application for registration was identical with the previous one.
With no letter from the Department of Religious Affairs, the missionaries were given only nonimmigrant visas, necessitating frequent trips out of the country at intervals of 90 days. The under secretary of education proved very helpful when approached about this awkward situation. In 1980 he issued a letter to the chief of immigration, stating: “The Ministry of Education has considered the matter and decided that since Thailand has a policy of granting freedom of religion, . . . it is appropriate to grant the missionaries an extension of stay for one year.”
The missionaries received a second one-year extension through the assistance of the under secretary’s successor, who recommended that Jehovah’s Witnesses form a foundation under the local law. Thus, in 1982 the Foundation for Furtherance of Bible Study was established and registered, with a number of experienced local brothers as committee members.
This foundation, a cultural organization, is able to own title to property, including Kingdom Halls. However, the Department of Religious Affairs has so far refused to recognize the foundation as a religious organization. Such recognition would make it possible for new missionaries to enter the country. The reason for this refusal? The department has a policy of consulting with the heads of the already recognized organizations of Christendom in Thailand on matters pertaining to the Christian religion. When a meeting was called to discuss the application of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the representatives of those organizations (including Roman Catholic, Church of Christ in Thailand, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Baptist, and Seventh-Day Adventist) were unanimous that they ‘could not approve of the Christian Witnesses of Jehovah’ because the teachings and activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not agree with theirs. This impasse still remains.
Special Convention Stimulates Activity
The 1985 “Integrity Keepers” Convention in Bangkok was special in that it was the first convention with really international character since the 1963 around-the-world convention. Some 400 foreign delegates from 18 countries came to Thailand. Brother Lyman A. Swingle represented the Governing Body.
An outstanding feature was the field service on Friday afternoon, when practically all the visitors, a great percentage of whom were pioneers, went out with their Thai brothers and sisters and almost outnumbered them. This, together with the timely convention program, greatly impressed the brothers and proved to be a stimulus to increased activity throughout the country.
During the months following the convention, new peaks in publishers were reached. In April 1986, the number of 157 auxiliary pioneers represented an increase of 80 percent over the previous peak. One congregation with 91 publishers had 48 auxiliary pioneers, including 6 of the 7 elders. The remaining 43 publishers reported an average of 20.9 hours for that month.
“The Little One” Becomes a Thousand
Uninterrupted Kingdom activity began in Thailand in 1936, when Frank Dewar arrived in Bangkok as a lone pioneer. It took him and the other foreign pioneers that joined him four years of hard work before the first local publishers were baptized. Until 1960, the number of publishers increased steadily to 382, in most years at a rate of over 10 percent. During the 1960’s, there were decreases for several years, but by the end of the decade, the number of publishers was just back at the 1960 level. Then came years with increases of up to 20 percent, before the rate leveled off at between 3 and 5 percent per year.
Year by year, the brothers were waiting for the long-hoped-for event—passing the 1,000 mark in publishers. This became a reality in April 1988, when a total of 1,021 reported. The 1990 service year concluded with a 6-percent increase and an all-time peak of 1,148. With 1,169 Bible studies being conducted each month and a Memorial attendance of 2,692 in 1990, there is good potential for further growth. As promised, Jehovah is ‘speeding it up.’—Isa. 60:22.
The circuit work has played an important role in strengthening the brothers in the 34 congregations and various isolated groups in all parts of the country. The branch has met the need for qualified traveling overseers in part by assigning Gilead-trained brothers to the circuit and district work. But young and energetic local brothers, such as Phisek Thongsuk, have served for several years now and are a great help to the brothers. Emilio Batul, who was a circuit overseer for about 10 years in the Philippines before going to Thailand, has been in the traveling work there for 22 years.
Getting Ready for Expansion
When the branch office was moved to the Society’s own property at 69/1 Soi Phasuk, Sukhumwit Road, back in 1962, the facilities were more than adequate. Since then, the staff of 3 Bethel workers has increased to 16. An adjoining property with a residential building and a lush garden was rented in 1985 to provide accommodations so that the office area in the branch building could be expanded. But this additional space also soon proved to be inadequate. After extensive searching, the brothers located and purchased a piece of land in a newly developed suburb of Bangkok. Construction of the new facilities, which will be five times as large as the present ones, began February 1990.
As is true of all other branches of the Society, Thailand has had a Branch Committee since 1976. At first the committee was composed of Paul Engler as the coordinator, Elon Harteva, and Guy Moffatt. Elon Harteva has since returned to Finland. Brother Moffatt died in 1981 after 45 years of full-time service, 30 of which he had spent as a missionary and in Bethel service in Thailand. Having served also in the capacity of circuit overseer and district overseer, he was well-known to the brothers throughout the country, and he was loved and respected for his sincere interest in the brothers and his zeal for true worship. After returning from Gilead School in 1980, Asawin Urairat became the first local member of the Branch Committee. The present committee also includes Ernst Fischer, who graduated from Gilead in 1972, and Kaarle Harteva.
Looking Ahead With Confidence
Though Thailand has been steeped in tradition for centuries, the true worship of Jehovah God has liberated many people from bondage to Babylonish religion. The first ones to become Witnesses of the God of truth in that country previously were nominal Christians. Now, however, the majority are people with a Buddhist background. At the “Living Hope” District Convention in 1980, for example, 26 of the 36 baptized were former Buddhists. Only one was a former Catholic, and nine had parents in the truth. Through the good news of God’s Kingdom, many people, including former Buddhists, have prospects of entering into a kind of liberty that no man or human government, not even of the “Land of the Free,” could ever bring about—freedom from imperfection, sickness, and death.—Compare John 8:32.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will keep on preaching this good news everywhere. True, there is still much work to be done in Thailand. More than half of the 73 provinces are as yet unassigned territory. But we are confident that the work will be carried out to the extent purposed by Jehovah. And it will be completed. Until then, we will continue to “say among the nations: ‘Jehovah himself has become king,’” and endeavor to help as many people as possible to become truly free.—Ps. 96:10.
In Thailand it is customary to address people by their first name.
[Chart on page 252]
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[Box/Map on page 186]
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Nakhon Si Thammarat
Gulf of Thailand
Official Language: Thai
Major Religion: Buddhism
Branch Office: Bangkok
[Pictures on page 188]
Frank Dewar sailed the South Pacific on the 52-foot [16 m] ketch “Lightbearer.” He arrived in Bangkok in July 1936
[Pictures on page 191]
Thailand’s contrasting scenery from Phangnga Bay, in the south, surrounded by mountain caves and coastal scenery, to the temple area of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok with its three-tiered head of a mystical giant
[Pictures on page 193]
Willy Unglaube, top, and Kurt Gruber preached in the northern part of the country in the late 1930’s
[Picture on page 197]
Chomchai Inthaphan became a translator in 1941 and was in Bethel service from 1947 until her death in 1981
[Picture on page 199]
Buakhieo Nantha, one of the country’s first native Witnesses, was a Gilead graduate, in the 31st class
[Picture on page 202]
George Powell, first branch overseer, and his wife, Dona
[Picture on page 207]
Thailand became a branch on September 1, 1947. First branch office was at 122 Soi Decho, Bangkok
[Picture on page 209]
Ready for magazine witnessing at first circuit assembly in Chiang Mai, April 1948. Back row on right is Hans Thomas, pioneer in Thailand from 1941 to 1954
[Picture on page 210]
Missionaries from the 12th class of Gilead. Joseph E. (Bob) Babinski, Gerald (Jerry) Ross, Darrow Stallard, Donald Burkhart
[Picture on page 214]
Karun Chuthiangtrong. How was her thirst for truth quenched?
[Picture on page 220]
Seng Buawichai had doubts about the Trinity doctrine
[Picture on page 224]
George and Carolyn Crawford have served as missionaries since 1963, in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand
[Picture on page 227]
Suyi Chinesia, early publisher in Laos; Bunhoeng Lao, brother of Siphanh; and Siphanh Lao, first Laotian Buddhist in Vientiane to become a Witness
[Picture on page 229]
Missionaries preach by boat on the many klongs (canals) of Bangkok, 1956
[Picture on page 230]
Bantoeng Chantraboon, graduate of 31st class of Gilead, in 1958, served as circuit overseer
[Picture on page 231]
Somsri Darawan, one of the first Thai special pioneers, graduated from Gilead in 1953
[Picture on page 232]
The original branch office was a familiar site not only for these missionaries but for residents of Bangkok as well
[Picture on page 233]
Branch office, 69/1 Soi Phasuk, Sukhumwit Rd., Bangkok. New Bethel is scheduled for completion in 1991
[Picture on page 235]
At the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly in 1963 at Lumpini Park, Bangkok, twice as many foreign delegates were present as there were publishers in the country
[Pictures on page 237]
Rosaura Engler (Cagungao) and Clara Elauria (dela Cruz), the first two Filipinos sent to Thailand to serve as missionaries. Why were Filipinos assigned to Thailand?
[Picture on page 238]
Guy Moffatt served for 30 years as missionary and in Bethel service in Thailand
[Picture on page 241]
Lao Witnesses on way to preach in refugee camp. There were 20,000 refugees to call on
[Picture on page 249]
Lyman Swingle of the Governing Body with translator Paul Engler at convention in Bangkok in 1985
[Picture on page 251]
Branch Committee have served a combined total of 99 years in full-time service. From left to right, Paul Engler, Asawin Urairat, Ernst Fischer, and Kaarle Harteva