Outraged residents of Bajoh district staged a peaceful rally to call on insurgents to end their violent tactics, one day after suspected militants burned down the local public health clinic. The arson was part of a recent wave of attacks across the region.
Some 300 residents from all seven villages that make up Lubosawor subdistrict attended the Wednesday (October 9th) rally outside the charred remains of the Lubosawor Public Health Clinic, which was torched the night before.
The fire completely destroyed the entire bottom floor, which housed consultation rooms, a pharmacy, emergency room, delivery room and equipment storage rooms. An adjacent parking garage and the vehicles parked there also sustained major damage.
Initial estimates of the damage by Ministry of Public Health chief administrative officer Narong Sahamethaphan came to about Bt. 1m ($32,000), including the complete destruction of vehicles, an ambulance and four CCTV cameras.
He confirmed that the clinic is completely incapable of offering services and asked the estimated 8,000 subdistrict residents to seek medical help at clinics in neighbouring subdistricts or at Bajoh Hospital.
Members of the local Muslim community travelled to the clinic throughout the morning to inspect the damage and console clinic director Fareeda Hawae Manoh and her nine staff members, many of whom were still in a state of shock after learning of the destruction.
As part of the rally, residents displayed cloth banner bearing messages such as "The clinic healed the sick. Why burn it down?" and others pleading with those responsible to end the use of violent tactics.
Sakima Toh-alee, a resident of Bohraetai subdistrict, was among the participants. She shared her thoughts with Khabar Southeast Asia.
"I joined the rally to demonstrate my intention to build peace and to tell those responsible to end violence in all its forms," she said. "The members of our women's group call for an end to all the violence, because we see the psychological impact it has on public health workers whose job it is to treat both regular and emergency medical patients, all of whom come from the local community.
"I would like to ask those responsible just how they think burning down our only local hospital is going to impact stability in the local community. How does the choice of this target match their objectives, and what are their objectives anyway? To put it bluntly, I simply don't get it. Does this reflect some kind of 'ideology'?"
Subdistrict chief Mayukree Maesa, who led participants on a tour of the charred remains of the facility, said the motivation behind the protest was pure.
"People don't want to see public property paid for by their own taxes destroyed. This is especially true in the case of this public health clinic, where the public can clearly see how those responsible are directly harming their welfare. The (recent wave) of incidents might be intended as symbolic, but why burn down a public health clinic?" he said, referring to the anniversary of the creation of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and other insurgent groups
"The vast majority of patients who had been treated here were Muslim. So now it is gone, burned to the ground. Who is going to suffer as a result? Local people, our own families and relatives, right? This is the problem," he said.
The ongoing violence has caused the Thai government to indefinitely postpone peace talks with the BRN that had been scheduled for later this month.
"If they are opposed to the way the area is being run, they should enter into the peace process. That would be best," Sa-aree Ma-asae, a local Muslim resident, told Khabar. "But the government also has to hand over a lot more power to local people and show that it is sincere, then local people won't always come out the losers in terms of loss of life and property. We all want peace."