Narathiwat to close hundreds of schools

Almost 380 schools in Narathiwat will close for two days, starting Thursday, following the shooting of two teachers in the southern border provinces this week.

Sanguan Intarak, chairman of the Confederation of Teachers in Narathiwat, Wednesday called a confederation committee meeting to discuss security for teachers in the deep South.

Mr Sanguan said the committee had agreed to suspend classes at 378 schools under the Narathiwat Primary Educational Service Area Office 1-3.

The schools would be closed Thursday and Friday so teachers can hold talks with Education Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana during his visit to Pattani Thursday.

All Buddhist teachers in high-risk areas will be transferred to schools in safer locations, Mr Sanguan said.

Teachers in Narathiwat are demanding village taskforces be set up to guard them.

The demand will be presented to Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanich, who is accompanying the minister on his visit to the deep South.

The idea of establishing a security taskforce was also put forward at Wednesday's teachers meeting.

"Village-based taskforces to protect teachers should be mobilised, as more soldiers are being pulled out of some areas in line with the government's policy to give police a greater role in maintaining security," he said.

"There are not enough security officers to take care of teacher safety, particularly at suburban schools," he added.

The school closures come in the wake of two gun attacks against two teachers this week. Chatsuda Nilsuwan, a 33-year-old teacher at Ban Ta-ngo school in Yala, was shot dead on Monday. Thirapol Chusaongsaeng, 52, a teacher at Ban Boko school in Narathiwat, was shot and wounded the following day.

Meanwhile, Chinnapat Bhumirat, secretary-general of the Office of Basic Education Commission, said an Islamic studies programme should be introduced in more schools in the South.

The intensive course has been introduced in 350 secondary schools and the feedback has been satisfactory.

The course aims to help students gain a better understanding of Islam. A request for the course to be made more widely available, including in primary schools, will be submitted to the minister, he added.

Mr Chinnapat, however, acknowledged that a shortage of teaching staff has prevented the government from offering Islamic studies in more schools.

Meanwhile, three suspected insurgents were arrested in a raid in Pattani's Nong Chik district yesterday.

The men were nabbed in a raid in Moo 6 of tambon Tu Yong.

Police said Nureehan Awae-Keajeu, 23, and Suhaimee Musor, 22, were suspects wanted on security charges. Masudee Yusor, 26, was apprehended on an outstanding arrest warrant.

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