January 25, 2014
The efforts of outstanding educators in the Deep South were recognised January 16th on Teachers Day. But in a perceived direct threat, separatist insurgents raised "Free Pattani" banners region-wide.
Ten educators in Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district received merit certificates from the Ministry of Education for their commitment to students. The awards recognise teachers' outstanding morale and dedication.
But the awards do not take into account the extra sacrifices educators in this region must make. Those in high-risk areas travel to and from school with armed escorts.
"This is the place with the highest murder rate in the world among teachers. In no other country in the world do they murder teachers like this, because they recognise them as defenceless and vulnerable," Narathiwat Provincial Teachers Federation Chairman Thawatchai Sae-Hum told Khabar Southeast Asia.
There was a minute of silence at the ceremony for the 187 government school teachers killed in insurgency-related violence since 2004.
"I would like to beg the government to be more flexible in granting transfers to teachers who become subject to threats," Sungai Padi District secondary school teacher Bussakorn Janpraphai said.
"I would like this to be the top priority," Bussakorn said, adding the government should waive minimum service times for threatened teachers. "And if any teacher is subjected to threats, he or she teacher should immediately be given extra security when travelling to and from school."
Many Deep South teachers also find it difficult to meet promotion requirements needed for the Education Ministry's six-tiered hierarchy. Bussakorn said policy revision would boost teachers' morale.
"We have petitioned the government many times already," said Southern Border Provinces Teachers Federation chairman Boonsom Thongsrirai."But now the situation seems to be like a vacuum due to all the political disturbances, so it seems like we will have to wait for some time after the (February 2nd) election. But the villains won't wait – they will surely continue to target teachers."
Boonsom's fears proved true that very day. Suspected insurgents detonated a small bomb hidden behind a "Free Pattani" sign as local assistant village headman Ahama Lateh approached the device.
Ahama, a Muslim, was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for minor shrapnel wounds.
Similar banners and spray-painted signs were also reported the same day in Sungai Kolok.