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Violence in the South

Make Fridays a holiday in South, scholar advises

A Muslim scholar in Yala urged the government yesterday to declare Fridays a public holiday in three southern provinces to be in line with people's ways of living and to reflect government's understanding.

Nimu Makaje, a leading Muslim scholar in the South, said it was common practice for many schools and government offices in the region to close on Friday, which is considered a holy day in Islam and time for Muslims to attend prayer services at mosques.

"I urge the government to make Friday an additional public holiday for those living in the three southernmost provinces to respond to the way of living of local people. If so, insurgents will not be able to threaten people to close their businesses on Friday," Nimu said.

Many government offices in the region close on Fridays to allow Muslim officials to go to mosques. In compensation, the officials work other days, Nimu said. Islamic schools are also closed on Fridays.

Making Friday a public holiday would reflect the government's understanding of the southern people, who would definitely agree with the proposal, Nimu said. He also referred to distribution of leaflets in the South, in which insurgents threatened people not to work on Friday. Those who worked or opened their businesses would face attacks or kidnapping.

The fliers also stated that Muslim teachings prohibited work on Friday - a claim rejected by Chula Ratchamontri, the spiritual leader of Muslims in Thailand.

Nimu said if Friday was a public holiday, the threat in the fliers would mean nothing.

Meanwhile yesterday, three people were killed in attacks in Pattani and Narathiwat.

In Pattani's Khok Pho district, Phon and Nid Phetsorn, both 65, were fatally shot en-route to a rubber plantation in Tambon Napradu. Police said the couple was ambushed by insurgents with assault rifles while riding a motorcycle. They died instantly at the scene.

In Narathiwat, Sama-e Seng, 49, told police that he and his wife Suenor, 44, were riding on a motorcycle on Sungai Padi-Joh I Rong Road in Joh I Rong district when a friend, Saitong Uma, 37, asked them for lift. So the three went together on the motorcycle. Later, two insurgents on a motorcycle approached them and fired at Suenor, the wife sitting in the middle. She was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The husband and Saitong were not injured.




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