Monday, November 27, 2006

Over 1,000 schools closed in Thailand's south as undereported guerilla war rages out of control

The same reason exists for both the war's origins and why it has been underreported: Thai people in the central region control both the government and the national media.
Central Thais do not care about or feel any particular kinship with the majority Malay or Thai-Malay people who make up the bulk of the population in the three southernmost provinces. In fact, Thai-Malay or 'south people' are even less accepted when it come to credentials of 'Thai-ness' (vitally important in this extremely though falsely ethnocentric land) than the ethnic Lao and Thai-Lao who inhabit the rural northeast.

Central Thais see the south as a territorial issue, and always speak of it as such. Southern Thais view the south in different terms -- the holy trifecta of ethnography, identity, and self-determination.

The three southern border provinces of Thailand were historically an independent kingdom and did not really become part of Thailand until around 1900, an event which coincided with the emergence of finely drawn borders and modern 'nation-state' identity for Thailand. Most of those in the south are Muslim Malays and maintain a completely a different religion, custom, and language from the Buddhist Thais of the central, north, and northeast regions.

Over 1,000 schools closed

Narathiwat, Yala teachers follow Pattani colleagues

The Teachers Federation has decided to close down all schools in Yala and Narathiwat indefinitely until the government can guarantee the safety of teachers.

That will bring the number of schools shut down in the troubled South to more than 1,000.

Teacher representatives from Yala and Narathiwat yesterday met to discuss the issue of safety after a string of shootings and arson attacks last week left two senior teachers dead.

"The federation has reached an agreement that all 240 schools in Yala and 336 schools in Narathiwat would be … shut starting from [today]," said Sa-nguan Intarak, secretary of the Teachers' Federation of Narathiwat.

Sa-nguan said teachers in 100 private schools were also in fear of their lives and had agreed to close down, pushing the number of shut schools past the 1,000 figure.

Their move to close down the schools in Narathiwat and Yala followed their colleagues in Pattani who decided to close the province's entire 336 schools from yesterday because of fears for their safety.

Teachers have been a common target of the insurgency. Last week a headmaster was burned to death in his car and another teacher was shot. At least 60 teachers have been killed since the violence re-emerged in the three southernmost provinces in January 2004.

"The conclusion will be sent to all the schools, and it is up to each school's principal and executive members to decide if they want to follow suit," said Sa-nguan.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said it was concerned about how Matthayom 6 students would perform in the upcoming entrance exam.

"We understand that closing schools is the best solution for teachers in the current situation. But what concerns us most is the fate of the Matthayom 6 students who will be having the entrance exam soon," said Prasert Kaewpetch, the inspector of education in Area Zone 12.

He said the ministry was planning special tuition classes for the students.