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Updated: January 16, 2001 05:00 PM GMT
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The first Thai Redemptorist priest from a hilltribe group says he tries to do the best he can to minister to hilltribe people in 64 villages in mountainous areas of northern Thailand.

Redemptorist Father Raymond Prasit Kunu, the first ethnic Karen Redemptorist priest, told UCA News that for about six months of the year, during the rainy season, it is "impossible" to visit all the villages under his care.

With a number of the villages accessible only by foot even in the dry season, the priest says he stays in each village a few days at a time. At present 13 villages have their own chapels, he noted.

Each year some 100 hilltribe people are baptized as Catholics, said the priest who was ordained Dec. 5, 1996. In addition, more than 2,000 hilltribe people are going through a period of instruction for 5-10 years toward baptism, he said. In general, hilltribe people believe in spirits.

Father Kunu, based at St. Patrick Church in Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai province, 695 kilometers north of Bangkok, said he also runs two centers: Pa Teung for children, with 61 residents, and Pa Phan for youth, with 38 residents.

The local Church helps the children and youth with education, said the priest, whose work motto is "Do the best daily and pray regularly."

In December a Catholic charity group from two parishes in Bangkok visited Father Kunu´s centers, bringing blankets, winter clothes and other basic necessity to the children and youth.

Chieng Heng Lim, head of the group, said the visit to the hilltribe people reminded them that their duty according to God´s will is to share with their brothers and sisters who are in need.


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