musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Teachers Targeted … to Die

Wednesday’s Thai newspapers detailed a vicious crime, one that’s occurring with disturbingly frequency lately: another teacher shot down and killed in Thailand’s notorious “Deep South.” And this wasn’t just any regular teacher, but a school director in Pattani, one of the three provinces in South Thailand where Muslim “insurgents” have been on a rampage for most of the past decade.


In an article this week the Bangkok Post gave a sobering tally: since the violence surged in January 2004, there have been 155 teachers killed. Read that again: 155 human beings slaughtered because they were only trying to do their job and provide local children with an education. Teachers! That’s just … intolerable. Fuck those insurgents.


Sadly, it’s not just teachers that are being killed, although that group appears to be one of the various insurgent groups’ prime targets. Buddhist monks have been shot and beheaded; police officers murdered; soldiers and “defense volunteers” ambushed and killed; bombs going off in markets and teashops, killing and maiming yet more people. A news article in Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper back in March put the total number of people killed in the region at 5,086, and the number of injured at 8,485. But that was over eight months ago, and those numbers are obviously even higher now. While Muslim groups appear to be the ones who are instigating the violence, it’s not clear how they are determining their targets. The number of Muslims who have died is higher than the number of Buddhists (2,996 to 1,952, according to the article), yet the number of Buddhists injured was nearly twice that of Muslims (5,141 to 2,751).


So what is causing this senseless violence? Oddly, it’s hard to get an accurate answer to that question. On Wikipedia, for example, it says:

A striking aspect of the South Thailand insurgency is the anonymity of the people behind it and the absence of concrete demands.

And that’s one of the reasons that efforts to quell the violence have been so ineffective. There’s no obvious, declared enemy, no one group to take aim at, to attempt to negotiate with or eliminate. Some say that the whole thing is a continuation of a long-running separatist movement, the border provinces (next to Malaysia) wanting to create their own independent state. Others think that the root of the violence is because the mostly Muslim locals feel ignored and economically disenfranchised by the central Thai government.


No matter what the cause, one would think that eliminating this scourge of violence would be a priority for the Thai government, but various incarnations of the Thaksin Regime, and even the Democratic Party, have all proven to be either inept or not particularly interested in solving the problem. The mindset seems to be along the lines of:

“Hey, it’s just those three border provinces down south, so why worry? Most of those people are Muslim and don’t even speak Thai anyway, so they are not really the same as other Thai people.”


Maybe when the insurgency travels north to Bangkok the government will finally start to take this problem more seriously. Thus far, the violence has been confined down south, but how much longer will that remain the case? Meanwhile, 332 schools in Pattani were closed temporarily this week “for a review of security measures.” One idea is to have teachers stay and live at their schools, rather than risking a commute to and from home. But for those with families, that’s not a realistic option. Frankly, it’s a wonder than any teachers still bother going to work in those provinces with the constant turmoil. At some point, you have to look at the madness surrounding you and gauge if it’s worth putting up with or not. If it was me, I’d be on the first bus out of that hellhole.

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