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Involving young people in bringing an end to violence in the South

© UNICEF-Thailand/2005/Rodraksa
Students have been encouraged to return home early since the violence erupted in the Muslim majority southernmost provinces of Thailand, while school buildings have been targeted for attack.

By Natthinee Rodraksa

PATTANI, August 2005 – Young people have a key role to play in bringing an end to the violence affecting their communities in southern Thailand, and UNICEF, in partnership with the Youth Coordination Center International (YCCI) and the Asian Research Foundation (ARF), is making efforts to ensure their voices are heard and acted upon.

UNICEF, together with YCCI and ARF, last year brought together more than 1,000 young people from the five violence-hit provinces in a series of youth consultations during which they voiced  their concerns about the growing violence, identified challenges in their respective communities and sought ways to address them. Their views were fed into the UNICEF Situation Analysis on Southern Thailand as well as into a separate youth report.

“The youth consultation process allowed us to look closer into the issues and needs of children and young people in the communities affected by the ongoing violence in the five provinces,” said Pattama Hamingma, a Pattani-based youth activity coordinator with the Asian Research Foundation. 

Pattama said the consultation process helped both young people and community workers better understand the different kinds of problems faced by individual communities and how to address them to meet the expressed needs of both young people and others in the  communities. The consultations yielded a wide range of recommendations, some of which have been followed up with good results.

One noteworthy example is the establishment of a child learning development center in Pattani province to help provide supplementary primary education opportunities for children after regular school. Educational achievement levels in the deep south lag behind those in other Thai regions for several reasons, including difficulties in attracting and retaining qualified teachers, language differences, lack of resources and poverty. In addition, many students also attend Islamic schools for a good part of the school day.

The child learning development center, which is run by university student volunteers from the Prince of Songkhla University’s Pattani Campus, provides after-school tutoring on weekdays for students in mainstream subjects such as mathematics, English and Thai. On weekends, the center organizes lifeskills education classes and some recreational activities for children after Islamic classes.

Other by-product initiatives from the youth consultation in the pipeline include two youth-led livelihood generation projects in Narathiwas and Yala provinces and a peace-building camp for young people.

The youth consultations highlighted two key strategies in response to the ongoing violence – rehabilitation and peace-cultivation among children and young people.

“We need to deal with the immediate negative impacts of violence on today’s children and youth before it’s too late,” urged Naree Charoenpholpiriya, a National Reconciliation Commission member.

“Without rehabilitation efforts, the effect of violence on each individual will be to create resentment and anger, which will undermine society and add fuel to the conflict. It is very important to build understanding and promote peace among children and young people in order to bring an end to the violence.”



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