Thailand Rejects Muslim South Language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jun 27 12:51:13 UTC 2006

From: & Newspapers

Thailand Rejects Muslim South Language

CAIRO Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej has rejected a proposal to
recognize Yawi, a Malay dialect widely spoken in the predominantly-Muslim
south, as an official language, The Nation reported on Monday, June 26.
"We cannot accept that (proposal) as we are Thai. The country is Thai and
the language is Thai," said Prem Tinsulanonda, the king's chief adviser.
"We have to be proud of being Thai and having the Thai language and the
sole national language," he added.

As head of the throne's Privy Council, Prem's words are analyzed by
Thailand's 63 million people for the slightest glimpse into the thinking
of the king. The proposal was put forward by the National Reconciliation
Commission (NRC) headed by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun. The
independent body is entrusted with probing the volatile situation in the
largely-Muslim south that has claimed 1,300 lives over the past two years.

Muslims make up five percent of the population and mostly live in the five
southern provinces bordering Malaysia. Language is an emotive issue in the
south where 80 percent of the people are Muslim, ethnic Malay and non-Thai
speaking. They complain that the Buddhist-dominated government treats them
like second-class citizens and ignores their language and culture.
Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat were an independent Muslim sultanate until
annexed officially a century ago.


The 48-member NRC urged the government, which has flooded the south with
troops, to embark on serious reconciliation, including giving official
recognition to Yawi. The final report of the commission also called for a
new agency to oversee reconciliation efforts. It also said a government
fund should be set up to compensate people mistreated by security forces
in the south. "Economic hardship, poverty and injustice have spawned
conditions conducive to an anti-government campaign waged in and outside
the country," Anand said.

Muslims in the south have long complained of discrimination in jobs,
education and business opportunities. Several international and local
rights groups have condemned the government's heavy-handed policy in the
south. In January, Amnesty International urged the government to
investigate abuses by security forces in the Muslim south. It pressed for
a climate in which people may report on all alleged violations of human
rights by state officials and seek redress without fear of reprisal,
including "disappearance."

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