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Thais taking part in a walk to promote peace in southern Thailand

Teachers continue to be targets of Thai violence

Vorapoj Singha, Bangkok

September 10 2010

Although attacks on teachers and schools in Thailand's restive south have demoralized staff, one teacher in a Catholic school says he is not about to quit anytime soon.

"When I started teaching here, there were not many attacks," said Veerawat Buakaew, who teaches at the Catholic-run Mana Suksa School in Yala province.

"Now I have bonded with my students. That's one reason I don’t want to quit."

However, Veerawat admits he lives in perpetual fear.

Traveling to and from school is a harrowing affair.

"I do not know what may be there on the roadside," he said. "Sometimes grenades are found, so I'm scared."

His fears are well founded.

Two teachers, a husband and wife, were shot dead while riding on a motorbike on Sept. 7. This brings to 135 the number of teachers killed since January 2004 in the predominantly Muslim provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

School teachers are often viewed by insurgents as government collaborators who impose the country's predominant Buddhist culture on students through the school system.

They are targeted along with other civil servants and local officials.

"The latest attack has impacted the morale of all teachers here," said Sister Jenta Rattanasakchaichan, director of Mana Suksa School.

The nun said she installed 16 closed-circuit cameras around her school two months ago and told her teachers to go home immediately after work.

Staff of another Catholic institution, Charoensri Suksa School, in Pattani narrowly escaped a bomb attack on Sept. 1, says its director, Sister Lawan Kokkruo.

The bomb exploded at a checkpoint outside the school, where two soldiers are usually deployed. When the bomb exploded, no one was at the checkpoint.

Fortunately, only some school furniture was destroyed.

Over the past six years, a total of 4,137 people have been killed in the three southernmost provinces, according to police.

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