Children in restive Thai provinces suffer anxiety, yearn for peace
BANGKOK -- 11 December 2008 – Children living in Thailand’s restive southernmost provinces suffer both anxiety and stress due to the daily threat of violence and yearn for the day that they can live in peace, according to a report released today by UNICEF Thailand.
The report – Everyday Fears: Children’s perceptions of living in the southern border area of Thailand – provides the findings of research carried out with some 2,400 Muslim and Buddhist children in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla, where a resurgence of violence that began in early 2004 has killed at least 3,000 people to date.
“We commissioned this study because we are deeply concerned about the impact of the ongoing violence on children in these provinces,” said Tomoo Hozumi, the UNICEF Representative in Thailand. “We are committed to raising awareness of the situation of these children and enabling them to tell their own story. We are committed to ensuring their voices are heard and their rights are respected.”
The study, carried out in 2006-2007, used research techniques specifically designed for working with children who have experienced violence and abuse. It is the first study to give children living in Thailand’s southernmost provinces the opportunity to directly express their perceptions of the violence and the impact it is having on their lives.
Between January 2004 and December 2007, at least 30 children were killed and 92 injured as the result of the unrest in the affected provinces. In addition to being victims of the violence themselves, children have witnessed the brutal slayings of parents, other relatives, teachers and community members, as well as fighting between soldiers and insurgents, bombings and the burning of their schools.
Hundreds of schools in the provinces have been severely damaged or destroyed over the past four years, and many children now travel to and from school and attend school under armed guard. Due to the unrest, education authorities have been forced to repeatedly close schools for periods ranging from days to months.
“The study clearly shows the anxiety, stress and restrictions that many children now live with daily,” Hozumi said. “Some are afraid to go to school or to even go outside to play because of the violence or the perceived threat of violence in their communities. Violence has permeated their everyday lives in a way that no child should have to experience.”
Hozumi noted that among the positive findings in the report was that none of the children expressed a biased or negative view of other religions or referred to religion as being a cause of the unrest.
“Most importantly, this report is a message of hope from children,” Hozumi said. “Throughout the report, the children talk about their desire for peace, and their hope that the violence will end and that friends, family and communities can live together in harmony.”
Asela Dorotae, a 14-year-old girl from Yala Province who took part in the study, helped launch the report at a press conference in Bangkok. Asela, whose father and two uncles were killed in the violence, said: “I am not the only one who suffers from the loss of family members. If we all help to look after one another, I believe we will finally have peace one day. Peace has to start with us, the children.”
Hozumi said the report shows that reconciliatory bonds clearly exist among children living in the southern provinces, and that efforts need to be made to strengthen these bonds as children grow up in order to ensure future peace and stability.
“Harmony is a word that children used again and again during the research,” Hozumi said. “It is our responsibility, as adults and policy makers, to help children live in peace so that they can reach their full potential.”
For further information, please contact:
Mark Thomas, UNICEF Thailand, 02 356 9481, (mobile) 081 172 9902
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