(Bangkok, Thailand) According to ChinaAid sources, Mayflower Church families were separated once authorities detained them in the Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). Not only that, one of the women expects to deliver her baby in the next two weeks.
AP reported that the IDC is “notoriously overcrowded.” Some ChinaAid sources confirm that some cells have over 40 people inside. US government agencies and the US embassy work around the clock to assist the church how they can. Bob Fu, the founder of ChinaAid, commended those working the free the exiled Christians. “Our team and U.S. Embassy are assessing the situation moment by moment.”
The situation within the cells is bleak, but according to the Baptist Standard, the church is in “good spirits.” They worship, pray, and share the gospel with fellow prisoners. In one of the Mayflower prison cells, a prisoner accepted Christ.
Detained in Thailand
Last Thursday, Thailand immigration authorities found the Mayflower Church hiding out in Pattaya and detained them for overstaying their visas. All 63 members stayed the night in the Nong Prue police station, sleeping on tables and chairs pushed together. The next morning, they attended a court hearing where they were asked to pay a fine. At the time, the Mayflower Church thought they would return to their residence in Pattaya. They were mistaken.
Trip to Bangkok detention center
Thai police drove the group to Bangkok, which would normally be a two-hour drive. In one of the cars, one of the Mayflower women heard the driver say that everyone was headed to Bangkok airport. This caused an altercation to break out, which stopped the convoy. It took the group five hours to reach Bangkok.
Immigration police detained and fined the Mayflower Church because they overstayed their visas. Sometime in December 2022, all of the exiled Christians could not renew because the Thai government told them they had to renew through the Chinese embassy. Deana Brown, the CEO of Texas NGO Freedom Seekers International, accompanied the church on the ground. She explained to AP “as soon as they walk into the Chinese Embassy they’re gone, we would not see them again. They’ve been hiding out since then.”
Shenzhen Holy Reformed, also known as the Mayflower Church, fled China in 2019 due to religious persecution. They lived on Jeju Island in South Korea for nearly three years, trying to get religious asylum. In August 2022, they left for Thailand to apply for UN refugee status in Bangkok.