As part of government reconciliation with the Malay-speaking south, the Education Ministry wants 882 Islamic teachers in state schools in five provinces.
At present about 300 public schools in the provinces are involved in a pilot project. Islam, along with the Malay and Arabic languages, is taught alongside secular subjects. There are almost 2,000 public schools in the five provinces.
All the Islamic teachers, known locally as ustaz, are hired on a temporary basis. Under the latest proposal, ustaz would become fully fledged government employees and entitled to the same benefits as state-school teachers.
The allocation of 882 slots is expected to cost the government more than Bt107 million, according to a source, but the switch from temporary to full-time status will save the government Bt5.4 million, he said.
Authorities blame Malay separatists for disturbances in the deep South, including arson attacks on 218 public schools since January 2004. At least 78 teachers and 20 students have been killed during this period. More than 2,300 people have died in the protracted unrest.
Public schools and teachers are perceived as agents for promoting the national values of the Thai state, which many local Malay Muslims feel come at the expense of their cultural identity.
Meanwhile, violence continued in the region as insurgents and police engaged in a fierce gunfight ending in the death of a high-ranking militant in police custody at the time.
According to Fourth Army deputy commander Maj-General Sasikorn Sirisri, insurgents attacked police in an attempt to kill Yakariya Pa-ohmani, 43, locally known as "Ya Bacho". They feared he would reveal information about their activities. Yakariya was arrested in Yala the night before.
In Tambon Sribanpot in Narathiwat`s Si Sakhon district, insurgents ambushed a police border-patrol unit, wounding two officers.
In Sungai Padi district, a roadside bomb intended for a security detail for monks exploded harmlessly.
Another roadside bombing occurred in Pattani`s Yaring district at Tambon Tanyong. Officers providing security for teachers escaped injury.
A man tossed a live grenade near the entrance of a village mosque, Musjid Nurulhuda, in Tambon Lamai in Yala`s Muang district on Thursday during evening prayers. No one was hurt.
In Tambon Banang Sareng, three electric-power poles were knocked down and obstructed a road through the remote village on Thursday evening.
In Bangkok, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who met Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, has agreed to take up Kuala Lumpur`s offer to host and sponsor vocational training for 4,000 southern Thailand students as part of a programme to improve education, government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp said.
Source: www.nationmultimedia.com (2 Juli 2007)