South teachers under fire
The bravery and dedication of teachers in the strife-torn southern provinces serves as a great inspiration to society. Despite the near-daily insurgent attacks, teachers in Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani perform their duties undaunted.
- Published: 30/12/2012 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: news
About 20,000 teachers in the deep South go to school every morning without knowing whether they will be able to return home safely in the evening.
TO MISS, WITH LOVE: A teacher escorts a pupil at her school in Narathiwat province. Teachers have become prime targets of insurgent attacks in the deep South but they continue to do their duty. (AFP Photo)
Over the past few months, teachers have been singled out for attacks by insurgents, with five teachers shot in less than a month, four of them fatally.
The teachers are Nanthana Kaewchan, director of Ban Tha Kam Sam school in Pattani (shot dead on Nov 22); Chatsuda Nilsuwan, of Ban Tango school in Yala (shot dead on Dec 3); Thirapol Chusaongsaeng, of Ban Boko school in Narathiwat (shot and wounded on Dec 4); Tatiyarat Cheukaew and Somsak Boonma, of Ban Ba-ngo school in Pattani (shot dead on Dec 11).
When teachers are attacked, schools suspend class for a few days, but eventually reopen, despite the risk.
Since the violence in the deep South flared up again nine years ago, almost 160 teachers have been killed, and more than 150 injured, according to the Confederation of Teachers of Southern Border Provinces.
Teachers are among the most vulnerable groups of victims for the insurgents. This is not only because they are defenceless, but also because attacks on them can hurt public morale.
The bravery of teachers in the deep South in performing their duty despite the risk to their lives deserves an honour and should set a good example for Thais to follow.
Stateless kids defy odds and win Hong Kong award
Somboon and Kitiya Rimpu are stateless children as they were born to Myanmar migrant parents. The siblings were given a chance to study at Suan Lumpini primary school, where they joined the school's marching band.
DRUMMING UP SUPPORT: Suan Lumpini school pupils are welcomed back at Suvarnabhumi airport after winning first prize at the Hong Kong Marching Band Festival. PHOTO: PATIPAT JANTHONG
Somboon, 14, was the snare drum player and field commander, while his sister Kitiya, 12, performed a colour guard.
The school's marching band has won first-prize awards on many stages and they were invited by the Hong Kong Marching Band and Drum Corps Association to participate in a contest in early January.
The problem was that as stateless children, Somboon and Kitiya could not make the trip unless they won the approval of the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and China's embassy.
The kids, parents, and teachers spent several weeks visiting various government agencies to obtain the required documents and seek permission from state authorities.
As the international competition drew near, the siblings still were unable to obtain approval to travel abroad. They fell deep into despair to the point that they gave up hope and told their teachers that they would like to quit the band so other students could take their place.
The kids said their Myanmar father also wanted them to withdraw from the contest because he was afraid that their stateless, non-Thai status would invite more problems for the family in the future.
The band's trainer, Thaworn Yoosabai, did not allow the siblings to withdraw as they were such skilled performers.
The story of the stateless pair caught the media's attention and human rights groups stepped in to offer advice and legal assistance.
Eventually, the brother and sister were given approval to fly out and they did not leave Thais disappointed as the marching band won first prize for its eight-minute show.
The many hours of practice which Somboon and Kitiya put into their routines inspired other underprivileged people and the public at large.
You're never too old to learn
Rice farmer Boonruang Pohdaeng, 28, joined a Prathom 1 (first grade) class this year, so keen was she to learn what she missed out on as a child.
ALL TOGETHER NOW: Boonruang Pohdaeng, 28, concentrates on a lesson in Nongkatat school in Saraburi’s Nong Saeng district. PHOTO: CHUMPORN SANGVILERT
Ms Boonruang joined her six-year-old classmates, studying subjects such as Thai language and mathematics at Nongkatat school in Saraburi's Nong Saeng district.
Ms Boonruang said she always dreamed of returning to school after she was forced to quit kindergarten when she was four to take care of her mentally ill mother. Poverty also forced her out.
With the support and encouragement of her aunt, Ms Boonruang's dream came true in May, when she enrolled as a first-grader at the school.
She admitted it was hard to learn how to read, write and do maths at her age.
"However, life is more difficult if I am illiterate. I cannot go anywhere without someone accompanying me. I cannot read signs nor can I count money," she said.
She is so dedicated to learning that she does not feel shy about sitting in the classroom alongside children, as she practises writing Thai words and counting numbers.
Thailand has up to 18 million people who left school before Mathayom 6, with most of them aged above 40.
Among them, few people would be brave enough to go back to school with young children as Ms Boonruang did.
Paralympians win gold and hearts
Thailand clinched its first Paralympic gold medal in the rising sport of boccia in London this year.
GOLD STANDARD: Members of the Thai boccia mixed team BC1-2 pose with their gold medals at ExCel Arena in London on Sept 5.
Pattaya Tadtong, Witsanu Huadpradit, Watcharaphon Vongsa and Mongkol Jitsa-Ngiem won a gold medal in the mixed team of the boccia BC1-2 final when they beat China 10-5 at the ExCel Arena in London in September.
The four wowed the audiences with their performances and were welcomed back as heroes when they returned to Thailand later that month.
Each gold medallist received a six million baht award from the government.
Boccia became a Paralympics sport in 1984 and Thailand has sent a boccia team to compete several times.
Boccia is played by athletes suffering from cerebral palsy, or other conditions affecting motor skills.
All events are mixed gender and include singles, doubles and team matches.
The game has relatively simple rules. An athlete has three balls to throw at a white target ball.
The one who can place the ball closest to the target ball will score a point.
Inspired by the success of the Thai boccia team, state and non-government agencies working on promoting the rights of the disabled came out to pledge support for disabled sports.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra lauded the athletes for making their country proud and vowed to provide more support for disabled athletes who want to attend the Paralympics Games.
Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said the team's success would make the Paralympics more popular among Thais.
The rise of Thai-made Viagra
Sex is not just a means of satisfying a natural desire, it is about quality of life. But many Thais, particularly men, lack a quality sex life because they are impotent. One study showed that 37 per cent of Thai men aged 40-70 have experienced erectile dysfunction. About 1.2 million Thai men are thought to have the problem.
HARD SELL: A Thai-made anti-erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil, sold under the trade name Sidegra, was launched this year.
Traditionally, drugs which cure erectile dysfunction require a doctor's prescription and tend to be imported, with a high price tag. That has opened an opportunity for trading on the black market. Drugs for treating impotency and obesity are the two most common types of counterfeit medicines sold in Thailand, the Food and Drug Administration says.
Good news emerged this year for men suffering from impotence, when the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) introduced a locally made drug to cure impotence which sells for just 25-45 baht per pill, a fraction of the price of licensed alternatives.
The drug contains the generic ingredient sildenafil which has been produced and sold under several international brand names, including Viagra.
The GPO employs a different procedure to produce sildenafil, so the organisation insists it is not violating any international patent law. The GPO's sildenafil drug sells for 45 baht for a 100mg tablet and 25 baht for a 50mg pill.
Children, and patients with heart disease can also share in this inspiring development. Sildenafil was found to have a beneficial side-effect of curing cardiovascular disease and is normally prescribed to patients with heart disease.
The GPO insists the quality of locally made sildenafil is on a par with that of Viagra.
The drug underwent two years of research and experimentation to ensure its quality and effectiveness when compared to Viagra.As the anti-erectile dysfunction drug is categorised by the FDA as falling into a specially controlled drug group, patients still need a prescription to buy it, and can obtain the drug at around 350 FDA-certified pharmacies as well as public and private hospitals and clinics nationwide.
About the author
- Writer: Pattnapong Chantranontwong