Thailand: Marching 1,100 kilometres for peace between Buddhists and Muslims in the south

Asia News, September 7, 2010

More than 70 people march for 55 days to remind people that peace is everyone’s business. Since 2004, clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in south Thailand have killed 56,950 people and wounded 11.390.

Bangkok, Thailand -- More than 70 people, including Buddhist monks, took part in a peace march that began on 11 July and ended on 1 September. Participants walked some 1,100 kilometres, from Mahidol University in Salaya District to the central mosque in Pattani province. Their goal was to tell everyone that peace and coexistence are possible in the provinces of southern Thailand torn by endless Muslim-Buddhist strife.

On the afternoon of their arrival, Imam Therathep Sriyapan, governor of Pattani, welcomed the group. He thanked them for their “effort to restore happiness and peace to this land, which is also part of your land as we are all Thai people.”

“Building peace is the duty of all,” said Kothom Araya, president of the Research Centre for Peace Building at Mahidol University, which organised the event with the Religious Council for Peace in the South of Thailand.

“The objective of the programme is to raise awareness of one’s individuality in order to build peace and stop any acts of violence in the southern provinces,” he added.

“Walking from Salaya to Pattani is not only a walk for peace but also for peace within one’s heart,” Phra Phaisan Visalo, a Buddhist, said.

Members of the pro-government ‘yellow-shirt’ and opposition ‘red-shirt’ movements also took part in the march. In recent months, they clashed with one another, sometimes violently, but on this occasion, they helped each other.

The violence in the southern provinces continues unabated however. Between last night and this morning, five people were killed and four wounded in violent actions in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani. Buddhists and Muslims as well as civilians and military were among the victims.

Major-General Jirasak Chomparasop, commissioner of the 22nd Military Circle in Pattani, told AsiaNews that since 2004 there were 9,922 acts of violence that left 56,950 people dead and 11,390 wounded.

In order to bring peace to the south, his organisation is “trying to follow the steps of King Bhumibol who is encouraging [. . .] understanding, friendliness towards people, and [. . .] sustainable development.”

The goal is to end the violence that, despite fewer attacks, is increasing in intensity.