April 05, 2014
A southern Thailand student group is raising awareness about the importance of knowing the Malay language and culture, saying this is a key to success for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to be launched late next year.
Many members of the 400-strong Mewarisi Budaya dan Bahasa Melayu (MBBM) club hail from the Deep South, where most households speak a local dialect of Malay.
Based at Surat Thani Rajabhat University, the club organises social activities that encourage people to learn Malay and help preserve the dialects and cultural traditions of Thailand's ethnic Malays.
More than 600 students from seven universities across the south gathered in February at the campus to participate in language and cultural exhibitions, as well as cook a wide variety of popular halal dishes.
"We aim to share our knowledge, helping students from other regions of Thailand to learn to read and write Malay and to appreciate our Deep South culture and dialect," MBBM leader Ruslan Sama told Khabar Southeast Asia.
Student leaders also held a panel discussion on how to preserve Malay language and culture across Thailand.
"There are more than 2,000 students from the Deep South studying in Surat Thani. Many are not very concerned about learning the languages and dialects of neighbouring countries or preserving their own dialect and culture," Rajabhat lecturer and club adviser Sulaiman Samahae told Khabar.
"These events are an important opportunity to exchange ideas on how to encourage students across the south to learn new languages that will be useful in the future AEC, as well as to encourage Deep South students to continue learning Malay in order to preserve the local dialect and traditions."
he panel heard that many students in Surat Thani opt to study Japanese, Korean or Chinese instead of Malay. But Deep South students stand to benefit from mastering the spoken dialects of Malay widely used across Malaysia, Ruslan said.
"After increasing knowledge of Malay in the rest of the South, our long-term goal is to make it available for students in other parts of Thailand to study," he said.
Arissara Chaikom, 20, said she hoped learning Malay would improve her job prospects.
"I am not from the Deep South, but I noticed some group members practicing Malay together," she said. "I can speak a few sentences, and I hope to improve."
To keep their son away from Deep South violence, Humdan Hesame's parents sent him to Surat Thani.
"Although we are far away from home, we have a community of friends here so I do feel at home. This is why I really like having this club at the university," he said.