Militants target teachers in Southern Thailand

Teachers in Southern Thailand have become the new target of militants forcing many to seek transfers fearing further attacks.

Bangkok: Teachers in Southern Thailand have become the new target of militants forcing many to seek transfers fearing further attacks.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today visited muslim majority southern Thailand, after horrific attacks this week in which six people died, including an 11-month-old baby and two teachers, who are increasingly seen as targets.

With teachers becoming targets of militant attacks, a large number of Buddhist educators in the troubled deep South have applied for transfers.

Their morale is at its lowest point following reports that they have become a new target group in the southern insurgency, Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanich said yesterday.

Statistics show that 80 per cent of the roughly 150 teachers killed in the violence in the area over the past eight years were Buddhists, he said.

More than 5,000 people have been killed since 2004 in the three Muslim majority provinces in the country`s south in the Buddhist majority country.
Most attacks have been blamed on Muslim insurgents.

Teachers at 1,200 schools in South Thailand have decided to suspend classes today and tomorrow following a spate of attacks by insurgents.
The decided to suspend classes after meeting school administrators yesterday.
The closure of all schools in 10 secondary educational service areas will allow security forces to review their performance, lay out plans to protect teachers, and hunt down the assailants, Boonsom Tongsriprai, the chairman of Confederation of Teachers in the Southern Border Provinces said.

The confederation called an urgent meeting with school administrators in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat the three muslim majority provinces yesterday after fresh attacks.

Five teachers have been killed in the past six weeks - the militants see schools as a place where state attempts to assimilate ethnic Malay Muslims. Southern Thailand borders Muslim majority Malaysia.

Yingluck met teachers and security officials during her visit. "Whatever happens, children need to have a safe place to learn. I thank teachers for having the courage to teach and I will ask for reinforcements and extra troops to ensure their security," Yingluck told reporters.

On Tuesday, five armed men entered a school in Pattani`s Mayo district and opened fire, killing the school director and a teacher.

Last week, one female teacher was also killed and a male teacher seriously injured in attacks in Narathiwat.

Boonsom said security plans to better protect teachers must be rolled out by Monday.

The group also called for the transfer of both Muslim and Buddhist teachers in high-risk areas to safer locations.

The teachers would take further action if nothing is done, he said, without elaborating.