Teachers in South spooked by flyer threat

Shooting intensifies Friday trading scare

Threats of violence against businesses trading on Fridays in the restive southern provinces are taking a toll on the morale of local teachers, according to the head of the Narathiwat Teachers Confederation.

Leaflets were distributed in many areas of the South a fortnight ago, warning business owners to cease trading on Fridays, when Muslims usually hold their weekly prayers.

Many shops in the insurgent-plagued southern provinces closed last Friday in response to the leaflets, said federation chairman Sa-nguan Intharak, amid reports of men wearing black jackets intimating business owners who kept their doors open.

Mr Sa-nguan demanded the government find ways to deal with the threats and guarantee the security of teachers.

If teachers are left unsure about the security situation, it might adversely affect their teaching with school holidays around the corner, he said. October marks a break for most schools nationwide.

Prasit Meksuwan, a teacher at Yaha School in Yala's Yaha district and former chairman of the Yala Teachers Confederation, said the threat against Friday trading has teachers spooked.

The killing of a teacher on Monday in Narathiwat has bolstered that fear.

Khomsan Chomyong, a teacher at Bongo School in Narathiwat's Rangae district, was shot in a drive-by shooting while riding his motorcycle home.

Though police have yet to establish a link between the leaflets and the shooting, the attack has shattered the morale of southern teachers, Mr Prasit said.

Khomsan was the 253rd teacher to have been killed since violence flared up in the southern provinces in 2004.

Aziz Benhawan, head of the Advisory Council for Peace Building in the Southern Border Provinces, said yesterday the council has come up with three measures to counter the Friday work-break threat.

Firstly, security and government officials and religious leaders must work together and come up with better security measures, he said.

Authorities must also identify the source of the reported threat, and local leaders must communicate to the public that the threat has nothing to do with ordinary Islamic religious practice.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday instructed soldiers to be more vigilant. However, he told residents not to be afraid and to report any suspicious or violent incidents to the authorities.

"Don't co-operate with those militants. Alert authorities and the situation will get better. If everyone lets fear overwhelm them and refuses to alert security officers, it is not right to put the blame on the officers when losses or damage [to their property] occur," Gen Prayuth said.

The army chief made his remarks during a security inspection in Narathiwat yesterday, where he was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa.

The inspection was marred, however, by the murder of a village headman, shot dead inside his tea shop in Narathiwat's Rueso district yesterday morning.

Anand Ahamae, 46, chief of Ban Tapoh in Rueso district's tambon Suwaree, was shot six times in the body and face.

The victim's wife, 43-year-old Siteeteemoh, told police her husband was selling food when two men arrived on a motorcycle pretending to be customers. When one of them took out a 9mm pistol, Anand ran into his bedroom to get his rifle.

The gunman followed and fired six times at close range, killing Anand instantly before fleeing.

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