Thailand to Shut 334 Schools in South

Thailand will close some 334 public schools in the country's restive Muslim-majority south after two Buddhist teachers were killed, an official said Saturday, November 25.

Thailand to Shut 334 Schools in South

The decision will affect all 334 schools, ranging from elementary to high schools, in Pattani, one of three violence-torn southern provinces bordering Malaysia, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"We have to close all schools in Pattani indefinitely because no one can guarantee teachers' safety," said Boonsom Thongsriplai, the chairman of the Teachers Federation of Pattani, adding the schools would be shut from Monday, November 27.

The closure was in response to the killings of two Buddhist school teachers in Pattani last week.

Non Chaisuwan, a 48-year-old school director, was gunned down Friday, November 24, inside his parked car by militants, who then set fire to the bullet-riddled vehicle.

The federation said Non was the 60th teacher killed during three years of unrest in the south.

On Thursday, Suradej Waddeanga, a 40-year-old Buddhist school teacher, was shot dead in a drive-by shooting after work.

Some 100 schools in neighboring Yala province also remained closed amid a spike in arson attacks against school buildings.

Up to 1,600 people were killed in violence in the three Muslim majority provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani since January 2004. 

The Muslim-majority region was an independent sultanate annexed by mainly Buddhist Thailand in 1902. Violence has erupted periodically ever since.

Economic Zone

The violence comes as the new government pledged to launch sweeping development projects in the south and reach out to the Muslim minority.

Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula said Friday the government would set up a special economic zone in the south to lure investment to the region which lags far behind the rest of the nation.

"We are considering giving privileges to the private sector such as tax deductions and discount fees for land purchase as investors and businessmen have fled the area," Pridiyathorn told reporters.

Pridiyathorn said the economic zone which also includes neighboring Songkhla and Satun provinces would be set up next month.

The economic scheme, announced Thursday by army-backed premier Surayud Chulanont after a special cabinet meeting on the situation on the south, covers the three restive provinces.

While Thailand has moved rapidly from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one with robust exports of autos and hi-tech equipment, the restive south's main industry has remained rubber plantations.

The three provinces are among the nation's poorest, with high unemployment rates.

Since taking office after the September coup, Surayud has offered a number of olive branches, including a decision earlier this week to adopt the local dialect of Malay as a working language for local officials.

Political scientist Michael Nelson from Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University said the government should implement measures "to win hearts and minds of villagers" to ease the violence.

"The government is trying to implement a basket of different measures to reduce anti-government sentiment among villagers," Nelson said.

Experts have argued that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's heavy-handed approach created deep anger and resentment among the Muslims in the south.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16