Thailand: opposition to Malay as working language in south

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Jun 26 12:28:21 UTC 2006

>>From the (Bangkok) Nation

Prem not happy with NRC's idea

Published on June 26, 2006

Privy Council chief opposes Malay as working language in the region
President of the Privy Council General Prem Tinsulanonda yesterday said he
disagreed with a suggestion made by the now defunct National
Reconciliation Commission (NRC) to have Malay as an additional working
language in the deep South. "We cannot accept that [proposal] as we are
Thai. The country is Thai and the language is Thai. So we have to make
efforts to learn Thai and [everyone should have a uniform] command with
the rest of the Kingdom," he said.

Prem who was the architect of an anti-violence policy in the South during
his term as prime minister from 1980 to 1988, was in Pattani yesterday to
meet religious and community leaders as well as Muslim youths as part of a
programme to bring peace to the area. "We have to be proud to be Thai and
have the Thai language as the sole national language," Prem told locals at
the gathering.

The NRC, chaired by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, had proposed
in its final report that was submitted to government on June 5 that using
Malay as a working language could help to reconcile people in the region,
the majority of whom are ethnic Malay. The commission also proposed that
the army to install an "unarmed unit" to use peaceful methods to contain
violence and pursue "dialogue" with militants that had sparked a wave of
violence since the start of 2004.Thaksin Shinawatra's government vowed to
adopt many of the NRC proposals but has so far made little progress on any
of them.

Violence has erupted in the restive South almost on a daily basis and more
than 1,200 people have perished over the past two years and a half. Fresh
outbreaks in Narathiwat's Bacho district yesterday saw a bomb explode at a
roadside. The attack was aiming at striking a group of six marines on
motorcycle patrol. The blast missed its target as it went off 100 metres
away from the marines. Meanwhile, intelligence units in Yala circulated a
warning to security officials about a possible bomb attack this week at
Narathiwat's airport and at Hat Yai, the financial centre of the South.

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