Muslims say religion misused by insurgents
- Muslims say religion misused by insurgents
By Supamart Kasem in Satun
Achara Ashayagachat in Bangkok
Islamic intellectuals and religious leaders have been urged to play a more active role in spreading correct Islamic teachings in the strife-torn deep South. Separately, Thailand and the Philippines agreed to intensify bilateral and regional efforts to counter separatism, extremism and terrorism.
The call to stop the un-Islamic teachings at southern schools was made during a workshop in Satun to discuss measures to restore peace to the region.
The two-day workshop, jointly organised by the National Legislative Assembly's (NLA) committee to study the southern unrest, the Chularatchamontri's Office, the Central Islamic Committee, provincial Islamic committees and security agencies, began yesterday.
Imron Maluleem, a representative of the Chularatchamontri, the country's Muslim spiritual leader, chaired the workshop, which was attended by about 100 people.
Gen Panthep Puwanartnurak, chairman of the NLA's committee, attributed the ongoing southern unrest to distorted Islamic teachings by ill-intentioned people who twisted the religion for their own benefit.
Suggestions and views expressed during the workshop will be submitted to the government for it to come up with policies and measures to solve the southern violence, he said.
Prof Imron said certain groups had used differences in religion and culture as tools to stage unrest and create mistrust between local residents and the state and between local Muslims and Buddhists.
He said the western media has exaggerated the situation in the deep South by creating an atmosphere of Islamophobia, accusing Islamic leaders of orchestrating violent attacks.
To quell the southern unrest, participants in the workshop urged Islamic intellectuals and religious leaders to take a more active role in pacifying the region by fostering a better understanding of Islamic teachings. The government should support their work and must refrain from doing anything new that would worsen the situation.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has assigned his adviser Wattanachai Chaimuenwong to foster ties between Buddhists and Muslims in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat as part of measures to bring peace to the region.
During his visit to Narathiwat yesterday, Gen Wattanachai urged local residents to be united and not to fall prey to insurgents' traps. He held meetings with local Buddhists and Muslims at several temples in Narathiwat.
Over 1,000 Buddhists gathered in front of Saba Yoi district hall in Songkhla to demand that the government retain border patrol police and rangers in the district and strictly enforce the law.
At the same time, Public Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla urged at least 10 new medical graduates who have refused to serve in hospitals in the deep South to change their minds.
On the international front, Thailand and the Philippines have agreed to intensify bilateral and regional efforts to counter separatism, extremism and terrorism.
Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram met his counterpart, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, at the fourth meeting of the Philippines-Thailand Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation.
It was the first such meeting in eight years.
A wide range of issues were discussed including agricultural, tourism, energy, military and security cooperation.
Mr Nitya said Thailand could learn from the Philippines' experience in its education management in Muslim-dominated areas, with the madrassa schooling system that teaches both secular and religious subjects and curricula that improve the capability of students to enter the marketplace.
According to Mr Nitya, Manila also proposed convening the first meeting of the joint committee on military cooperation later this year.
The Philippines is now Thailand's 15th major trading partner, with last year's volume at $4.6 billion (150.7 billion baht), doubling the trade value in 2002.
Mr Nitya also called for the launch of the first Joint Committee on Trade and Investment, and the finalisation of the convention on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income as soon as possible, to shape an environment that is conducive to trade and investment.
A joint working group on energy will be set up to expedite Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's agreement with President Gloria Arroyo last October on energy cooperation in areas of research and development including alternative sources of energy, particularly those of bio-fuels.
The two countries also look set to prepare for the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Thai-Filipino diplomatic relations in 2009.
Mr Romulo yesterday paid a courtesy call on Gen Surayud and had an audience with Their Majesties the King and Queen.
Source: Bangkok Post, 27 March 2007