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1,300 schools in south Thailand close after teachers are killed

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 13 Dec 2012 16:27 GMT
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BANGKOK (AlertNet) – A teachers’ association in insurgency-plagued southern Thailand said hundreds of schools would be closed on Thursday and Friday after two teachers were shot and killed in broad daylight on Tuesday.

A school director and a teacher at Ban Ba-ngo school in Pattani died when at least five men in police uniforms burst in, shot them and stole a pick-up truck, the Bangkok Post said. The killings were thought to be part of a long-running insurgency by separatist ethnic Malays that flared up in 2004 in southern provinces where Malay Muslims are in the majority.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited Pattani on Thursday, underlining the government’s serious concern at the recent spate of killings in the region.

The Confederation of Teachers of Southern Border Provinces decided 1,300 schools in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces and four districts of Songkhla – known collectively as the deep south – would close on Dec. 13 and 14 “to allow security agencies to evaluate their effectiveness in providing security for teachers and finding those responsible for attacks,” the Bangkok Post reported

“In a sickening trend of radicalisation, insurgents are increasingly attacking teachers, who they consider a symbol of government authority and Buddhist Thai culture,” said Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Thailand, whose population is predominantly Buddhist.

“There is no excuse for such brutality,” he told AlertNet. “The attacks on teachers not only violate international law prohibitions against targeting civilians, but also threaten children's basic right to education.” Similar attacks have disrupted children’s education, leaving students in the deep south with the poorest academic performance in the country, he said.

More than 5,000 people have been killed – including more than 150 teachers, HRW says – and some 9,000 wounded in the provinces near the Thai-Malaysia border since 2004.

TEACHERS UNDER ATTACK

Four people, including a child, were killed in a shooting attack in the deep south on Tuesday, and local media reported that insurgents on motorbikes shot dead a female teacher and badly wounded a male teacher last week.

In November, more than 330 schools were closed for two days after a female school director was shot dead outside her school.

Sunai urged the government to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of schools and teachers – and to make sure there were no vigilante attacks by local security units.

”Over the past two months, against the backdrop of growing insurgent attacks, there have been reported assassinations of a prominent imam and a Muslim religious teacher (ustadz) in Yala,” he said.

“There have been no successful criminal investigations of these cases, leading many in the Muslim population to conclude that Thai authorities have been involved in a cover-up and have made it clear to the perpetrators that they can act without fear of punishment,” Sunai said.

“Insurgents may claim that abuses by the security forces justify their attacks, but the Thai government should not allow its troops to adopt the same logic,” he added.

An International Crisis Group report  released on Tuesday said that “insurgent capabilities are outpacing state counter-measures that are mired in complacency and political conflict.”

“The government should reverse the militarisation of the Deep South, lift the draconian security laws and end the security forces’ impunity, all of which help stimulate the insurgency,” it added.

The report also recommended the government seriously consider political decentralisation in the deep south.

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