Schools in Thailand’s deep South reopen today, though teachers still feel they are being targeted by insurgents.
With students to tend to, teachers can only hope that the new set of security measures will actually boost their safety in the violence-plagued region.
“We will see whether the improved safety measures can protect teachers’ lives,” Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) chair Boonsom Thongsriprai said yesterday.
He met with Fourth Army Area chief Lt-General Udomchai Thammasarorach, Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanich and SBPAC secretary-general Tawee Sodsong in Pattani last Friday to discuss how to better protect teachers.
More than 900 schools in the southern border provinces closed down for two days last week in the wake of violent attacks on teachers.
According to Boonsom, about 80 per cent of attacked teachers are Buddhists. The deep South is predominantly Muslim.
Udomchai said insurgents targeted teachers with the aim of terrorising locals and disrupting the development of the region.
He said if local children did not receive an education, insurgents would find it easier to mislead them.
“We will do our best to protect teachers,” he said.
Authorities have agreed to improve safety measures for teachers, who are already escorted to and from work by security teams.
Among the improved measures is that teachers will know exactly who will be providing them with the security escort. This measure will remove the risk of insurgents disguising themselves as soldiers and attacking unsuspecting teachers.
“Moreover, soldiers must be ready to respond to requests for help from teachers round the clock,” Boonsom said.
He added that teachers would be advised to strictly follow safety rules. For example, he said they must be on time for their security escorts and avoid being complacent.
“Don’t ever think that you are safe just because you have worked in the region for a long time. Don’t take any risks,” he warned teachers.
Boonsom said teachers should also inform security officials when conducting non-school related activities.
In a related development, police and soldiers rushed to a bridge in Moo 7, tambon Riang, in Narathiwat province’s Rusoh district, yesterday morning in response to a report that an iron box stuffed with explosives had been found.
According to the report, the explosives weighed around 10 kilogrammes. However, the team did not find anything unusual at the bridge or in the nearby area.
Security officials believe the insurgents must have become aware that their bomb had been discovered and retrieved it for later use.