Readers may not be aware about Royal British Legion Thailand, whose headquarters is in Chonburi, but which has members scattered throughout Thailand, including me. For I too was a British soldier serving for 20 years until I retired to live here 10 years ago.
Yes, I served in conflicts, but 90% of my time on active service was spent trying to prevent one lot of people from attacking another lot, such as the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. I was also involved with the UN humanitarian relief operation to Rwanda after its 1995 genocide. I was there primarily in a welfare role dealing with soldiers’ psychological issues, but I also found myself liaising directly with the local Rwandan community as I speak some French. Strangely, I then found yet another role winning hearts and minds by entertaining the kids in refugee camps with my ukulele!
Today, with any remaining Second World War and Korean War veterans now in their 90s, the Legion’s focus has shifted to supporting those who served during later conflicts such as Northern Ireland, the Gulf wars and the Afghanistan Campaign. This includes everything from helping homeless veterans to get off living on the streets to supporting those who have suffered mental or physical injuries from recent conflicts. Because of privacy issues, readers will naturally be unaware of any welfare work quietly done with veterans within Thailand; it is not something that can be publicised easily.
More visibly, Phuket saw its first poppies distributed to places around the island in 2009 when B100,000 was raised to support veterans here in Phuket. It was a terrific start, although fundraising has inevitably declined since then because of COVID-19. However, the Legion in Thailand still managed to raise B745,000 last year, an incredible achievement in the circumstances.
But the Legion is not just about raising money and the direct support of veterans ‒ it is also about organising Remembrance Day commemorations every 11th of November, remembering those service men and women of all nations who died in conflict. While these always take place in war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi and at the British Club in Bangkok, it may be possible to hold a local remembrance service in Phuket if there is enough support.
Talking of which, membership of the British Legion is open to anyone of any nationality, civilian or veteran, living in Thailand who wishes to support its invaluable work. It is easy to join via its website, just select the “Overseas” and then “Thailand” options.
To end, I hope you will join me in supporting those veterans who bravely served their nations in trying to create a freer and more peaceful world. Oh, and you don’t need to play ukulele!
If you want to find out more about the Royal British Legion in Thailand visit www.britishlegion.org.uk/branches/chonburi-thailand
Donations to the RBLT Poppy Appeal 2021 can be made here: https://www.weeboon.com/en/campaign/rblt-poppy-appeal-2021
Andy Tong Dee can be contacted at email@example.com