Muslim-outreach program for southern youths comes to close in Chonburi

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Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont closed this year’s “Heart to Heart for the South” program in Chonburi, which saw 20 southern youths experience Muslim life outside of Thailand’s three strife-ridden provinces.

The retired general and former prime minister presided over the Oct. 21 ceremony at Darul Hadiyah mosque in Bothong, which hosted the youngsters for the 17th year.

Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont (center) closes this year’s “Heart to Heart for the South” program in Chonburi.Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont (center) closes this year’s “Heart to Heart for the South” program in Chonburi.

This year, youths stayed with host families in Bothong and Koh Chan to learn farming for 25 days. They also took a field trip to tourist attractions led by Gov. Khomsan Ekachai.

The program was begun by military leaders two decades ago to influence youths attending Islamic schools in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces to embrace Buddhist principles and teachings of HM the King in the name of expanding their cultural understanding.

Surayud said it gives southern youths a chance to see the lifestyles and living conditions of Muslims living peacefully in other areas of the country. In Chonburi, 324 youths have stayed with 162 host families since the program began.

A Muslim insurgency opposed to Thailand’s Buddhist rule over the three provinces has raged for decades. Since violence began in 2004, more than 7,000 residents and military personnel have been killed.