HUMAN RIGHTS hrw.orgDefending Human Rights Worldwide

Human Rights News FrenchSpanishRussianKoreanArabicHebrewspacer
RSSPortugueseGermanChinesePersianMore Languagesspacer

Thailand: Education in the South Engulfed in Fear

Teachers Targeted in Spiral of Reprisal Killings and Violence

(New York, June 14, 2007) – A new surge of violent attacks on teachers and schools by separatist militants has seriously disrupted education in Thailand’s southern border provinces, Human Rights Watch said today.

" Insurgents are terrorizing teachers and schools, which they consider symbols of the Thai state. "
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch
Officials in Narathiwat province have been forced to close more than 300 government schools in all 13 districts this week after insurgents killed three teachers on June 11. Two gunmen walked into the library of Ban Sakoh school in Si Sakhon district around noon and shot two female teachers, Thippaporn Thassanopas, 42, and Yupha Sengwas, 26, in the head, abdomen and legs. They died instantly in front of some 100 children, who were playing in front of the library after lunch. Both teachers received warnings before they were killed.  
Approximately an hour later, a male teacher was shot dead in a grocery store in Ra Ngae district. Sommai Laocharoensuk, 55, a teacher at Ban Jehke School, was hit six times by AK-47 fire in the head and body. An eyewitness said six gunmen walked into the shop and opened fire on Sommai, who was registering the names of children to be enrolled in his school.  
Human Rights Watch said it believed those responsible were separatist militants because of a long pattern of similar attacks on government schools and teachers, along with continuing public threats.  
“Insurgents are terrorizing teachers and schools, which they consider symbols of the Thai state,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These attacks are grave crimes and cannot be justified by any cause.”  
On June 13, militants burned down 11 schools in Yala province’s Raman district, apparently in retaliation for the June 12 murder of Abdulraman Sama, 60, a respected Muslim religious teacher. More than 500 Muslim women and children blocked a highway in front of a mosque in Raman district in protest of his killing, accusing government security forces of responsibility. Fears of further reprisal attacks on schools have led to the closure of 60 other schools today.  
The military-backed government of General Surayud Chulanont has promised to give special attention to measures that would make schools safe and teachers secure in their work. Human Rights Watch urged the government to take appropriate steps to ensure the security of schools, but expressed concern about vigilantism inspired by authorities who encourage the local Buddhist Thai population to defend itself against insurgents. Since the military coup in September 2006, there have been reported assassinations of Muslim religious teachers (ustadz) and attacks on Muslim schools (ponoh) in revenge for insurgent attacks on government teachers and schools.  
“Insurgents might claim that abuses by the security forces justify their attacks, but the Thai government must not allow its troops to adopt the same logic,” Adams said. “Any attempt to cover up the misconduct of security forces, or to protect them from criminal responsibility, will further escalate a cycle of reprisal violence.”  
According to Human Rights Watch’s research, the new generation of separatist militants – calling themselves Patani Freedom Fighters (pejuang kemerdekaan Patani, or pejuang) – has been responsible for 75 deaths and 91 injuries of teachers since January 2004, when the insurgency escalated. They have also burned 194 schools in the same period.  
Human Rights Watch examined leaflets distributed by pejuang militants in the southern border provinces explicitly warning ethnic Malay Muslims not to send children to government schools and not to cooperate with Thai authorities. The leaflets say that doing so is considered to be a forbidden sin (haram) and can be subject to severe punishment – including death.  
“Insurgents are attempting to close down all government schools,” Adams said. “Their campaign of terror strikes a serious blow to public education in the southern border provinces, which already retain the lowest test scores in Thailand.”

Suggest This Page to a Friend
Your Email (required)
Your Friend's Name
Friend's Email (required)
Email addresses are not stored.
Your Message

Enter Security Code
(case sensitive)

Please read the HRW Privacy Policy

HRW Logo Contribute to Human Rights Watch

Home | About Us | News Releases | Publications | Info by Country | Global Issues | Campaigns | Community | Bookstore | Film Festival | Search | Site Map | Contact Us | Press Contacts | Privacy Policy

© Copyright 2006, Human Rights Watch    350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor    New York, NY 10118-3299    USA