Nan villagers oppose mosque project

Nan villagers oppose mosque project

Villagers in Nan province are opposing construction of an Islamic mosque in Phu Phiang district, fearing it could bring political and religious conflict seen in Thailand’s Muslim-dominated Far South.

Thairath Online reported Wednesday that residents of Ban Buppharam in tambon Fai Kaew -led by headman Jaran Sanngoen and members of the village committee - met today at Wat Buppharam temple express their opposition to the mosque project launched after a Muslim group bought a 284-sq-wah tract of land there. The land has been graded and groundwork has begun.

The villagers said there is no need for their community, which has no Muslim residents, to have a mosque. As in other communities, villagers in Ban Buppharam are Buddhists. They are afraid construction of the mosque has have some hidden political or religious purpose, which could lead to unrest and violence as has occurred in the three southern border provinces of Thailand and Muslim countries, they said.

Moreover, a public hearing to hear their opinions was not held before the land was bought, they said.

Imam Yarim, the Islamic leader from Lampang who initiated the Nan moque project, said mosques have been built all over the country, except in two provinces. One of them is Nan.

He said it is necessary of have a mosque in Nan as Muslims in the province have no place to perform their religious activities easily. To make prayers on Friday, they must travel to a mosque in Denchai district of Phrae province, 130km away, he said.

Imam Yarim also said that after construction is finished, Muslim tourists visiting Nan will have a place for prayers and other religious activities. As a result, it could spur the community's economy.

More importantly, the mosque is part of preparations for the launch of the Asean Economic Community at the end of this year.  The Nan mosque plan has been approved by both the Chularatchamontri, leader of the Thai Muslim community and the Supreme Sangha Council, he added.

When the village committee called a vote, the majority of villagers voted against the mosque plan and vowed to continue to oppose it.

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