Thai Teachers in Muslim South Under Fear: Report
Schools in the South pay for the harsh government policies against Muslims in the area. (Reuters)
YALA, Thailand, July 6, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – The harsh, militarized policies of the Thai government in the violence-wracked Muslim-majority South have generated spiraling dynamic of violence and revenge in the area, leaving Thai Muslims living in fear and horror, according to a leading US paper Wednesday, July 6.
"It's every day, people die every day. This is the situation we live in," The New York Times quoted as saying Ms. Duangporn Duangporn, 49, the principal of Baan Trang School in the countryside just outside Yala.
School teachers in the predominantly Muslim South have been the target of a tit-for-tat campaign of violence and revenge between the Thai government and "Muslim separatist groups".
Some 18 teachers had been killed in bomb attacks in the area in the past year and a half, with dozens of schools damaged or destroyed in arson attacks.
"This is the teacher's life. We don't go anywhere alone. If I have to leave school during the day, I can call a military officer to escort me," Duangporn added.
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist nation but Muslims make up about five percent of the population and mostly live in the five southern provinces bordering Malaysia.
Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are the only Muslim majority provinces in Thailand, where Muslims have long complained of discrimination in jobs and education and business opportunities.
"Living With Weapons"
On the weekends, teachers in the government-run schools in the South are gathering to try out their pistols to defend themselves against attacks targeting their lives, according to the daily.
"As a result, we are all living with weapons," said Duangporn, who carries her pistol with her everywhere, even inside her little schoolhouse.
On the weekends, the school principal can be found at the firing range, getting the hang of her new .22-caliber pistol.
The Thai Education Department has said recently that it was buying used pistols and expediting permits so that teachers could arm themselves.
When the school day is over, nobody lingers to go home; neither teachers nor students, with all activities have disappeared, along with much of the daily life of the South.
"When the sun sets, everything gets dark in the village and everyone shuts the doors and windows," said Prim Daengkeaw, another teacher at Baan Trang.
"It's frightening just to go to the market. People around here are getting killed, just ordinary people, like workers going to and from work."
Ms. Duangporn agreed, stressing that the whole rhythm of life is changing in the South.
"Everything happens in daylight," she said. "At night, everybody stays home." She added that people have stopped inviting each other for dinner and even traditional evening funeral ceremonies have been moved to the afternoon.
School teachers in the South feel less safe even though they are working in heavy guarded classrooms.
"Whenever someone we don't know comes to our school, parents or whoever, we keep our eye on them," said Wacharin Suthipithak, 50, who teaches at Baan Lahal Yamu School, just down the road from Ms. Duangporn's school.
"We don't know who is who. I'm scared, I'm really scared. It's really too brutal."