Pork meat incident should not be overblown out of proportion
A seven-member committee was recently set up by the director of Pattani’s Zone 2 primary education office to investigate an incident in which Muslim students on a study trip to Bangkok were unintentionally given lunch boxes with pork meat.
The unfortunate incident caused an uproar among families of the Muslim students and many other Muslims in the three southernmost provinces as the incident was deemed a serious offence against Islam because eating pork is prohibited to all Muslims.
Two Buddhist teachers of Wat Ampawanaram community school in Tambon Mohmawee, Yarang district of Pattani, who escorted the students on the field trip in Bangkok and the school director have been moved out of the school to ease communal tensions pending a fact-finding probe.
The probe team is made up of seven members who include former school director who is a Muslim, a school director who is a Buddhist, Tambon Mohmawee kamnan, representatives of the imam group and Mohmawee tambon administration organization. It was given 15 days to come up with a full report.
Initial talk with the teacher responsible for the field trip project shows that the same food shop was hired to provide lunch boxes to the student group of both Muslims and Buddhists during the 3-day trip.
Every went well for the first two days until the last day of the trip when the food shop did not have enough chicken and put pork into the food and did not notify the teachers. The lunch boxes were distributed among the students, according to Mr Atthasit Rattanaklaew, director of Pattani’s Zone 2 primary education office.
After there were complaints from the Muslim students that there were pork in their food, the food shopowner apologized admitting he forgot to inform the teachers.
When news broke about pork being mistakenly served to Muslim students, local villagers who are mostly Muslims demanded the school director and the two Buddhist teachers responsible for the field trip be sacked. But Mr Atthasit decided to move the three educators out of the school to elsewhere in order to ease the tempers among the locals.
Responding to the incident, the Federation of Muslim Students of Thailand issued a statement demanding the three educators to clarify to the public about what actually had happened.
The student organization also demanded education offices to educate Buddhist teachers in the region about Islam and Islamic way of life so that the incident would not be repeated. It called on the media to present facts and to avoid causing religious conflicts among Muslims and non-Muslims in the region.
Dr Winai Dalun, director and founder of Halal scientific centre of Chulalongkorn University, posted a message in his Facebook page saying that the incident should not have happened in the first place had the school concerned understood about Halal food and that Muslim students must eat Halal food.
He explained that Halal food could be Thai curry or Chinese noodle provided that there are no ingredients banned by Islam in the food, particularly pork.
He said that when people understood what is Halal food, it would be much easier for food management so that people of different religious faiths can eat food without violating religious teachings.
Dr Winai said that the incident should be resolved but he begged for forgiveness for the three educators and that they should not be moved out of the school which is a bit too harsh.