New school year begins with tight security in Deep South

After a teacher was killed and schools were burned recently, students plead for both teacher security and a safe place to learn.

By Rapee Mama in Narathiwat and Ahmad Ramansiriwong in Yala

May 31, 2014
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Security forces in the Deep South are on full alert as government schools begin a new school year after a teacher was murdered and two schools were torched in recent weeks.

  • Sixth grader Waesofia Mayeetae examines the charred remains of her Islam Bumroong School in Narathiwat's Sungai Padi district on May 16th. [Rapee Mama/Khabar]

    Sixth grader Waesofia Mayeetae examines the charred remains of her Islam Bumroong School in Narathiwat's Sungai Padi district on May 16th. [Rapee Mama/Khabar]

Highly regarded teacher Phairat Jinsane, a 50-year-old Thai Buddhist, was gunned down May 7th by two assailants in Pattani as she pulled over her motorbike to buy fried bananas by the side of a road.

Her assailants left a note at the scene saying, "this will not be the last", The Nation reported. Phairat was the 174th teacher killed since the insurgency flared in 2004.

Four days later, in Narathiwat's Sungai Padi district, two primary schools were torched, making it impossible for one to start the term as scheduled on May 16th.

Sixth grader Waesofia Mayeetae arrived at Islam Bumroong School that day to find many of its classrooms reduced to ashes. Only one building remained undamaged.

"What did we young students do to make anyone so angry that they would burn our school down?" Waesofia asked. "This makes us students lose out on our chances to learn."

Temporarily, classes will be conducted under a tent in the courtyard while workers rebuild the school, which is seeking donations to help fund the work.

"Our office has applied for an emergency budget to construct a new three-storey school building to replace the one that was destroyed by arson," Narathiwat Primary Educational Service Area Office Director Thawat Sae-um told Khabar Southeast Asia after surveying the damage. "We are still awaiting approval, but in the meantime I will do my best to ensure that the students will completely resume their studies as soon as possible."

Though damage to the Ban Kokta School was also severe, it was still able to open on time. In Yala, where there are 223 schools in three education districts, most schools reopened May 16th.

"My friends and I are very concerned about the safety of our teachers, especially when they are travelling to and from school. We don't want them to be in any danger and hope that each and every one of them will remain safe," Saina Jehma, a 13-year-old student at Ban Lak Khet School in Yaha district, told Khabar.

Yala Governor Dejrat Simsiri told Khabar that the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) reviewed security measures after the recent events and is trying to provide the best-possible teacher security. "Special emphasis was placed on integrating efforts to ensure security at 'points of weakness', such as in areas along provincial borders or the borders between various districts in the province," he said.

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