January 19, 2013
Scores of children in Yala province celebrated a happy and safe National Children's Day amid tight security on January 12th.
The fanfare got underway at 8am outside the Prasawat Surakachatharn Municipal Building, where Yala Governor Dejrat Simsiri relayed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Children's Day message for 2013, calling on the new generation of Thais to develop discipline and intellectual growth to become leaders in the rapidly-approaching ASEAN Economic Community.
In his address, Dejrat wished all children happiness and urged young ones to study hard and develop creativity and the ability to become the next generation of leaders.
Among those providing security at the event were police officers, soldiers, volunteers and emergency rescue workers. Dejrat also ordered extra security checkpoints in all eight districts of the province to ensure children and their guardians reached the fair safely.
Nurahaseekean Kuha, a fourth-grade primary student at Municipal School 4 in Muang District Yala, told Khabar Southeast Asia, "I am so happy I was able to attend the Children's Day activities today. I did some painting and received many gifts. I think other children who did not come today missed out on a lot of fun. It wasn't scary at all."
In that sense, the day was a much-needed break from daily life in the region, where young people are not spared the impact of the ongoing insurgency.
According to Deep South Watch, separatist violence in the region between 2004 and 2012 killed 52 children and injured 387, aged 15 and younger. Many were disabled for life.
The youngest victim was 11-month-old Infane Samoh, a Muslim girl shot to death by suspected insurgents during an attack on a tea shop in Ra-gnae District, Narathiwat in December. She was among five children killed in 2012, along with 48 injured.
The deadliest year for children was 2007, when 23 were killed and 56 others injured.
Saturday, though, was a day to celebrate childhood. Over 70 government agencies and private-sector organisations participated, with informative booths and exhibits, stage performances and a wide variety of contests.
Also present was Yala Municipality Mayor Pongsak Yingchonjareorn, whose office organised a demonstration of German Shepherd police dogs by Border Patrol Police Unit 443, a helicopter rappelling demonstration, a "sea boxing" competition, trivia quizzes, singing and dancing shows staged by students in the Yala Municipality school district, health and hygiene demonstrations, drawing and art competitions and much more.
There was also free ice cream, cotton candy and other sweets.
Dejrat's wife, Anongsri Simsiri, distributed 5,000 food packets to children and parents in her role as chairwoman of the Yala Red Cross Society.
Pakarmas Pankaew, a student in the non-formal education programme in Muang district, told Khabar, "Yala has so many interesting things and beautiful places, so I want the government to maintain peace here and provide special help for any children who are affected by the violence in the three southern border provinces."
Anat Leemud, in his fourth year of secondary school at the Rajaprachanugroh Whangpaya School, also asked adults to maintain peace and stability in the region.
"Me and many of my friends decided to attend this year and we got great chances to learn new things from experts in a number of different fields and occupations," he said of the festivities.
"My only wish is that some really good people will come and solve the problems in the Deep South once and for all."