Relevant facts and background information will hopefully clarify inaccurate misconceptions and promote better understanding of the troubled restiveness in Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala and some districts of Songkla. More than 90 percent of Thailand’s 65 million people are Buddhists and many within the country’s Muslim minority have long complained of biased discrimination, especially regarding wronged uncivil rights and equal opportunity jobs.
Thai Muslims residing in the deep South share close similarities to Malays across the border in religion, culture, dress, food and language. Romanized Yawi or Pattani Malay is an indigenous dialect of Bahasa Malay, normally written using the Latin alphabet and called Rumi, although a modified Arabic script called Jawi also exists.
The new generation of village-based militant extremists, often referring to themselves as freedom fighters or “pejuang,” has been attempting to divide society along ethnic and religious fault lines by playing on wary mistrust between Buddhists and Muslims. According to Human Rights Watch, insecurity and safety fears, including attacks on teachers and torching of schools by separatist insurgents, have terrorized and intimidated the local populace and prevented children from enjoying their constitutionally guaranteed civil rights to quality education. During the past eight years, violent attacks have increased in frequency, resulting in 4,455 orphaned children and 2,295 widowed mothers.
Tainted by past scandalous crackdown abuses, Draconian emergency decrees, extrajudicial killings and heavy-fisted human rights violations, feeble attempts have been made to institute progressive policy reforms in order to help make the predominantly small, rural community schools safer, while also offering increased protections for dedicated teachers who remain steadfast in their unwavering commitment to maximizing individualized child-focused learning opportunities for each and every student entrusted to their compassionate, resolute guidance. Local administrative bodies should be given increased autonomy and authority to determine what works best for their village populace. Curriculum reform which demonstrates respect for the Rumi language and dignity for Muslim traditions is long overdue, hopefully leading to a fair-minded locally negotiated settlement rather than a Bangkok-centric imposed military solution.
Mindful cool hearts offer gracious thanks, extend utmost admiration and provide moral support for the untiring efforts of the highly regarded educators, generous volunteers and hard-working security providers, aimed at enabling fast-forward momentum progress toward meeting 3 R’s: Respect for tolerant multiversity; Recognition of ethical core family values; and Reconciliation based on peaceful non-violent coexistence.
Dr. Charles Frederickson