People and civil society groups in the Deep South of Thailand have donated more than 3 million baht to help an Islamic school after it was forced to close down under a court order.
Civil society groups in the Deep South on Saturday, 19 March 2016, organised a fundraising event to help the Waemanor family, who ran a Pondok, Islamic religious school, called ‘Jihad Pondok’ in Talo-Kapo Village, Yaring District, Pattani Province until the court confiscated its land in early February.
The activity, which was held from 9 am to 9 pm on Saturday at a local football field in Tadan Village, Yaring, Pattani Province, was attended by a huge crowd of Islamic religious leaders, local people, politicians, students and foreign observers.
According to Wartani, a local media in the Deep South, as the event ended at 9 pm, the donations totalled about 3.73 million baht.
The Waemanor family said that they will use the money to build another Islamic school and a house where they could live in the region.
The Civil Court in December 2015 ruled to confiscate the land under the 1999 Anti-Money Laundering Act after 11 years of legal battle.
In 2005, the Thai authorities issued arrest warrants for 36 insurgent suspects accused of sedition and rebellion. The authorities reported that two of the suspects testified during interrogation that they were trained to use weapons on the school grounds.
18 of the 36 suspects reported to the authorities to fight the case and were later released because of weak evidence. However, a number of suspects remain at large, including a former principal of Jihad Pondok, Dor-loe Waemanor.
With the testimonies of the two insurgent suspects and its former principal at large, the prosecutors later filed a case to the Civil Court to have the school land confiscated.
Earlier, Don Pathan, a former reporter of The Nation who is an expert on the Deep South conflict, wrote on Patani Forum that many local activists think that the closure of Jihad Pondok might deepen distrust between Muslim communities in the region and the Thai state.
“The forced closure of Jihad Pondok gives a perfect advantage to the separatist movement because it will deepen the distrust between the Thai state and the local people in Pattani, who the Thai state has been trying to win over for a long time,” Don wrote.
Thousands of people attended a fundraising event on 19 March 2016 to help the Waemanor family build a new home and Islamic school (Photo from Wartani)