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Children in deep South 'scarred by violence'

CHILD EXPERTS have voiced concern at the well-being of children living in the restive South, saying many who have experienced violence lack appropriate physical and psycho-social care.

The experts' comments came at a seminar that was a side event to the Deep South Alternative Media for Peace/Pattani Festival at the Prince of Songkla University campus in Pattani.

It was staged last month by Deep South Watch, a peace dedicated non-government organisation (NGO).

The children's cases were based on a 2013 Unicef study of 11,500 incidents of armed conflict reported in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces since early 2004.

They found that by the end of February 2014, 120 children had been killed and some 630 others injured, while 5,500 children had been orphaned due to the violence, reported by the Deep South Coordination Cen-tre.

Last year, a total of five children were killed in the violence in the four southernmost provinces, while five children have been killed already in the first two months of this year, according to Deep South Watch.

Anchana Heemmina, director of the Heart Support Group, an NGO with children and youth in the deep South, said although children were not targets of violence, the increasing number of child victims suggests those carrying out attacks were less concerned with or careful about the safety of children.

Lacking appropriate psychological support

Dr Pechdau Tohmeena, director of Mental Health Centre 12, said children who have been through traumatic violent experiences are at risk of being prone to violence as adults.

In 2008, the Ministry of Public Health set up a rehabilitation unit at Yala Provincial Hospital for children affected by violence, but so far fewer than 700 children had been brought in for treatment.

This was because many parents were not aware of the importance of psychological treatment and lacked knowledge and skills to detect signs of psychological problems their children might have, she said.

"There is an 11-year-old girl who was shot while sitting in her classroom three years ago," Pechdau said. "She came to the hospital many times as she could not breathe properly, but we later found she urgently needed psychological treatment."

The girl believed that other children at school were going to attack her, and she responded by choking them. As a result, the girl has had to change schools four times. Her family had not informed the doctor that the girl suffered from hallucinations, Dr Pechdau said.

Due to security concerns and mistrust of government officials by local residents in the restive southern provinces, it is difficult for healthcare workers to make home visits, Dr Pechdau said. He added that there was a need for increased community involvement in monitoring the physical and emotional well-being of children.

Metta Kuning, director of the Deep South Coordination Centre, said she was worried about economic and social development in the deep South as many children living there lacked the inspiration needed to promote their future development.

According to a study on the quality of life among the poor in the far South, the goal of many children was only to become unskilled labourers when they grew up.




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