The health and safety of the Deep South's elderly population is an important part of the national agenda, senior citizens attending a special ceremony in Narathiwat Province were told.
More than 1,000 people aged 50 and older were at the special event August 14th, where they received a host of free medical services, cash hand-outs from Bt. 500 to 1,000 ($15-$30) depending on age, and free sarongs.
The recipients included Buddhists and Malay-speaking Muslims from Narathiwat's Kaluwo Nua subdistrict.
"This is the first time we have held a special event like this for the elderly, and the number of people who have turned up has exceeded our expectations," said Asmiri Wehdeng, municipal council chairman.
"The event is held to support the national health insurance scheme by looking after senior citizens in each jurisdiction. For this reason, we have arranged health check-ups for senior citizens of all ages, and we will provide follow-up services for them as necessary."
The region's ongoing insurgency also puts elderly people at greater risk.
Suspected insurgents reportedly targeted and killed four Thai Buddhist senior citizens since mid-May. Muslims have also been targeted – a June attack seriously injured Abdulloh Jenee, a 53-year-old committee member of Ban Tha Pong Mosque in Pattani.
"I am glad that the state is taking interest and not abandoning us. The money we received today might not go very far, but it is the thought that counts," local resident Duanroreumah Hayee, 61, told Khabar Southeast Asia. "This has really lifted the spirits of all of us, Buddhists and Muslims alike, and you can see it in the smiles in all the faces, where normally they would be very difficult to find."
Duaroreumah said even though elders are nearing the end of life, all still have important roles in the lives of descendants and youths. "It is our duty to help raise them in a way that will ensure they turn out to be good citizens."
Another local, 66-year-old Sidi Kajee, said she hoped military rule wouldn't disrupt services for people like herself.
"I would like to ask them to please take good care of the elderly across the nation, because in some cases the needs of elderly people are neglected by their children and grandchildren," Sidi told Khabar.