Conflict in Thailand
Since 2004, 6,500 people have died as a result of cultural conflict in Thailand between Malay Muslims and Thai Buddhists in the ‘Deep South’ (Thailand’s three southernmost provinces). The culture clash stems partly from the majority Muslim area’s desire for autonomy, a hot topic in Thai politics. On numerous occasions, public schools have been targeted for attacks, leaving educators concerned about their students’ safety.

In the Deep South, four out of five individuals identify as Muslim, compared to Thailand’s overall 93 percent Buddhist population. Many of Thailand’s Muslims believe the country’s public education system, which is geared toward Buddhists, only serves to exacerbate the ongoing conflict. Although Malay Muslims’ first language is often not Thai, all public school classes are taught in it.

Professor Suwilai Premsrirat of Thailand’s Mahidol University has spent the past 10 years working to integrate the Patani-Malay language into public-school curriculum in the Deep South through a pilot program to deter cultural conflict in Thailand.

Although Premsrirat faces criticism from both sides for incorporating elements of the opposing group’s language, she believes the bilingual approach is the key to success. Primary school teacher Mrs. Hareena promoted the pilot program, saying “you can see [the students] are understanding better now.”

Hopefully Premsrirat’s initiative will also serve to reduce cross-cultural violence in the Deep South by promoting understanding and diversity. “We want to make it [clear] we respect [Patani-Malay language and culture],” Premsrirat said, speaking for the Thai public school system.

According to Asia Peacebuilding Initiatives, incorporating the Malay language into the public school system may discourage Muslim families from sending their children to private Muslim schools. More Malay children attending public schools will result in increased diversity and mingling between the two cultures. This in turn may help promote national unity and reduce cultural conflict in Thailand.

Asia Peacebuilding Initiatives is quick to point out, however, that while language integration is a major step, the ultimate goal is to shift educators’ perspectives on the importance of diversity in language and religion.

Because of the cultural conflict in Thailand, many Malay Muslims feel alienated by their native tongue. Hopefully, incorporating their language into Thailand’s public school curricula will provide Malay Muslims a sense of belonging and Thai Buddhists an opportunity for understanding.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

junta in thailand
Since May 22, 2014, Thailand has been under the strict reign of a military junta. Many worried about the immediate effects of the ousting of the prime minister and the social upheaval it spawned. Two months later, Thailand remains under the same leadership with the detrimental effects to their economy to prove it.

Domestic demand and investment are the two hardest hit regions of Thailand’s delicate economy, as the growth continues to slow at a steady pace. Efforts are being made to improve the economy with little to show for it.

The junta ordered the price drop on diesel fuel and cooking oil for a six-month period, angering the local businesses that rely on that as income.

The Bank of Thailand originally believed in a 2.9 percent growth rate for the 2014 economy and has lowered that estimate to an extremely modest projected growth rate of 1.5 percent. This drop clearly depicts the failing changes being made by the junta.

In attempts to encourage the process of internal and external investment in Thailand, the junta has cleared 100 incentives in just two months, costing an estimated $6.3 billion to follow through with the pitches. Still, they managed to change the negative national deficit to surplus hundreds of millions of dollars with little announced plan of action for the money.

However, it appears that Thailand is finding moderate success in the international market, with increases in exported goods to the United States and Europe. For the first time in six months, Thailand increased shipments to China, one of their main buyers.

The economic effects appear to be undetermined with a range of positive and negative effects influencing the lives of millions. For instance, many rural dwellers are out of reach from the programs being kickstarted in major cities.

In the midst of the economic shift lies the ongoing ethnic conflict in isolated provinces. The non-existent work done by the junta in Thailand to address the attacks demonstrates the weakness and short-term mentality of the junta.

Thailand is incapable of success with a constant fear of violent outbreak looming in the forefront of their minds.

In light of this, four were killed due to a bombing in the southern Pattani province as an attack against the insurgence in the area.

Over 5,000 have fallen victim to the horrific violence and the junta appears to side step each outbreak of violence.

The stability of the military junta is questionably short-term, with the likelihood of a social-born revolt to take it down. The junta demonstrates efforts being made in the economic sector of the country while ignoring the human rights issues occurring throughout the country.

It’s unlikely that the junta will gain support if they continue to ignore the ethnic cleansing in southern Thailand.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Wall Street Journal, NASDAQ, ABC News, Radio Australia
Photo: Fox News