Dear Sombath….from Shui Meng (20)

Reflections on what it means to be Locked Down

Dearest Sombath,

I don’t know whether you know that the whole world is now facing a serious pandemic caused by a coronavirus named COVID-19.  It’s a Sars-like virus, but appears to be much more contagious, and has so far infected more than a million people world-wide and caused more than 50,000 deaths.

So to slow the spread to the virus, many countries across the globe have declared a lockdown, meaning that people should stay at home and not go anywhere unless really necessary.

In Laos, the Prime Minister announced a lockdown from 01 -19 April. All schools, offices and businesses are closed with people asked to work from home.  Pimai celebrations, parties, and gatherings involving large numbers of people are also forbidden.

So, over the last few days, I, like most residents in Vientiane, have stayed at home. Just 3 days into the lockdown, I begin to feel uneasy, with a sense that the house is like a prison.  Yes, I can walk around in the garden, read, listen to music, watch TV, do everything I can normally do in the house, except go out.

Today, my thoughts suddenly wondered to you – thinking to myself, what it would have been for you these last eight years living a locked down (or more likely locked-up) existence somewhere.  I asked myself, what is your situation – are you kept in isolation in a small room, or are you allowed some freedom of movement.  How are you keeping yourself physically and mentally busy? Are you able to keep healthy; what kinds of food do you have; do you have access to reading and writing material; and how are you keeping mentally alert?

In the past I have also often thought about such things, and even though I know it would be very difficult for you, I could never quite understand how bad or terrible it could be.  But now when my own freedom of movement has been somewhat restricted, the full force of what your deprivation of freedom actually meant, and the toll it would take on your physical and mental wellbeing came to me more vividly than ever.  It hit me in the gut like nothing has ever hit me before, leaving me gasping for air.

My love, I can only hope that you, who I know is strong of mind and of spirit, would be able to draw on your inner strength to sustain you.  I can also only hope and pray that the injustice you were made to suffer will quickly be righted, your freedom restored, and you will come home to us soon.

My dearest, I also hope that wherever you are, you will not be expose to the COVID-19 virus.  I can only hope and pray for the best for you and for those people you are with. May you be well, may you be healthy. and may you be happy.

Praying for you as always.

Shui Meng

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