A story about the family of a Buddhist Thai woman killed by a motorcycle bomb in Yala market on 22 Jan. A group of Deep South women activists have proposed measures to make markets a safe space for everybody.
The market has been the breath of life for the Chennaruemit family for many decades, just like Mama or Hasana Jemeena (who lost her son, Yili or Mayaki Waeyawae, in the Phimonchai market on 22 January 2018, featured in the previous article
). But losing his wife Suprida Chennaruemit in the Phimonchai market probably made Worasak decide to end their 20-year business in the market because since he had no one to carry it on. He himself already has a job as a mechanic at the Southern View Hotel, Mueang District, Pattani Province (his wife is a younger sister of the owner) while his two sons are working in Bangkok.
Suprida and Worasak Chennaruemit
Worasak said that both of his sons have graduated from university with bachelor degrees. The eldest one is a civil engineer, and the younger one works at a company. They are the results of his wife’s hard work and perseverance working in the market, doing different jobs, including guarding cars and providing toilets to market goers. His wife also earned an income through another route by buying raw ingredients from the market for the Southern View Hotel.
Their family doesn’t use the market only for trade; they also have their “home” on the second floor of the store. So on the morning of the incident, he was at the scene. He said that when the explosion ended he called his wife and ran to the front of the house. He saw his wife, injured from the bomb, lying on the ground. So he rushed in, held her in his arms and tried to shake her awake. At that time she was still alive; there was a response. Her eyelids moved up and down slightly before everything became still in his embrace, in the middle of the market on the darkest morning in his life.
When he arrived at this point of his story, he momentarily stopped before continuing with a quiet voice that seemed stuck in his throat, the edges of his eyes starting to turn red. “I miss her.”
Many can probably remember vividly the photo of him and his wife. Someone managed to take a photo of that moment and shared the picture on social media during the early days after the incident, profoundly moving the hearts of anybody who saw it. Worasak was in his pyjamas, his left leg drenched with blood, supporting his wife who was lying still on the ground in his arms. He then turned around with pleading eyes as if he was begging for help from anyone nearby in the middle of the wreckage of the shops…
“No one would know what it’s like unless it really happens to you. Before, my friends were involved in such incidents. I sympathised with them, but now that it’s happening to me, my wife, it’s very hard. I can’t speak… if I were to ask the state for help, how would they help us? We can only be careful, that’s all.”
Worasak is from Hat Yai, while his wife is from Yala. They were married and had been living together for 30 years. He has repeatedly seen and experienced violent incidents, whether directly or indirectly – not much different from others in the area for the last 14 years since the 2004 incident. And on 23 August 2016, a bomb also exploded at the Southern View Hotel, Mueang District, Pattani Province where he worked. There was one death and 30 others were injured. Nevertheless, he said that he hasn’t thought of moving somewhere else even though there is nobody else in his family left in the area.
“I am not discouraged. I will fight.” His words made us visitors happy for him and we admired his strength.
When asked if any Muslims had come to visit, he said they always come. In a while, my friends and subordinates who are Muslims working together at the hotel will come to visit and cheer me up. That kid sitting at the funeral (he points to a chubby man that had been talking to his relatives nearby) is also a Muslim that works for me. He’s come to help me since the day of the incident up to today; he hasn’t abandoned me at all.
“This isn’t about religion,” he told us.
Even if the incident this time was beyond one’s control, Worasak thinks that safety measures in the markets to prevent any incidents from happening are very important. He said:
“This time it’s up to the state and the people to help be on the lookout for each other. The state alone can’t do it. We need the people’s sector as well. Anything observed that is strange must be reported and passed along. There needs to be a special agency directly taking care of this. For example, if there is a suspicious car parked in front of the shop, where should we call? What number? There should be a clear organisation accepting the reports. There are no CCTV cameras in the market; it’s also dark. There are many entrances.” Safety in the market is the safety of vendors working hand-to-mouth, people who come to buy things for everyday living – all of whom are civilians, both Buddhists and Muslims. So markets are a public place that should be exempted from violent incidents and military activities, by no matter which side!
Safe Markets Proposal by Peace Agenda of Women (PAOW)
Women’s organisations from the civil society sector set up 5 brainstorming centres to collect opinions from around 500 women in affected communities in the south from October 2015 to April 2016. It was found that the public place that women most want to be safe is the market since violent incidents at markets have resulted in women and others getting killed and injured. Information from Deep South Watch, Prince of Songkla University Pattani, stated that from January 2004 to October 2017, 610 women died due to violent incidents with 2,496 injured (the bomb at the Phimonchai market on 22 January 2018 killed 2 women out of a total of 3, and injured 17 women out of 22).
Women also see markets as very valuable and meaningful to them since they are a source of income for survival. It is a place where women can work and find an income to provide for the family. Markets give women economic negotiating power, power to make decisions on what to buy; it is an area that women must make use of, due to their role of having to take care of the family, cook, shop for personal goods, and find things the family needs; it is a place to meet others, socialize, and exchange information. Markets are places where women can be at ease, happy, and relaxed. And markets are places with a high density of people, a common area for people of every religion, sex, age and ethnic origin.
In the brainstorming, women proposed safety measures in markets.
Markets must be organized, including parking, entry and exit. There should be random checkpoints, placed reasonably far away from the markets. Operative security cameras should be installed inside markets, and around markets and parking lots. There should be regular meetings between all sides responsible for safety in the markets.
Also, safety measures should be implemented according to each area after consultation with the people who own the land or who will be affected. These people should take part in proposing or designing safety measures for each public area.