By Nasueroh Jeha
In a violence-prone region like the three southernmost provinces where mutual distrust between the predominant Malay Muslims and minority Thai Buddhists still runs deep, the fact that the two peoples of different religious faiths joining hands and hearts to build an Islamic religious school in a small village represents a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel amidst the gloom and doom.
Ban Jo Kla Dee in Village 8 of Tambon Yaha, Yaha district of Yala is populated by 99 percent of Muslims and the rest being Thai Buddhists. Yet, the two peoples have been living together in peace and harmony. About two years ago, the villagers started building a Tadika religious school with their own funding drawn from donations.
The villagers managed to raise about 400,000 baht. These include 115,000 baht from a day’s income from the sale of rubber sheets by each household. The rest came from a weekly donation of 20 baht from each household.
But the 400,000 baht fund was hardly enough to cover the construction costs. Recently, the fourth army contributed another 100,000 baht which however are not adequate. Deputy Interior Minister Thavorn Senniam who lately visited the village promised to help out to fulfil the school project. He reportedly told the villagers that he expected the school to be completed the next time he revisits to officiate the school’s opening.
The village’s religious leader, Mr Mae Johngor, said he felt honoured that the deputy minister and the fourth army commander made a visit to the village. He is optimistic that the violence in the region will gradually subside if the government and authorities allow the local people to have a say in solving problems.
Mr Nachid Jinakul, a Thai Buddhist in the village, said that he had had cordial and close relation with his Muslim neighbours since childhood. “Nothing can change our friendly relationship.”
Mr Nachid said besides making the donation he would visit the school to observe the progress of the construction work any time he felt free.