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Violence in the South

Schools in Narathiwat shut after the killing of teacher

In the wake of the fatal shooting of a Thai-Muslim teacher, all 378 schools in Narathiwat province were closed yesterday at the conclusion of a meeting by a teachers' network.

The network also pleaded with teachers to raise funds for the family of victim Chonthee Charoenchon, the 158th teacher slain in the Deep South. They also called on security officials to hunt down the four assailants who carried out Wednesday's attack.

The schools are scheduled to reopen on Monday. Twenty-one schools in Narathiwat's Bacho district had earlier been temporarily closed in the wake of the shooting at Ban Tanyong School on Wednesday.

Chonthee, 51, was shot in the head twice during lunch in the school's canteen, which was crowded with almost 300 students. There was one shooter accompanied by three others. They had arrived on two motorcycles and had posed as the parents of students.

Chonthee's keys were snatched from his belt and the attackers made off with the teacher's Nissan sedan.

The schools were closed as teachers, students and parents have lost confidence in the security measures. The body of the Chonthee was buried yesterday.

Police said they would question teachers at the scene to get an idea of the identities of the suspects and make sketches to compare them with those of criminals in police files.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat described yesterday's killing of Chonthee as another blow to education in the region but stood firm in his belief that the existing security measures for educators needed no adjustment.

Sukampol said the victim was a Thai-Muslim and that the school is run according to the Muslim system with security provided by other agencies, not the military.

He said it was after a long time that a Thai-Muslim teacher had been killed, and called on southerners to join hands in anti-insurgency activities.

He said the armed forces were ready to assign military personnel to help teach children if requested by the Education Ministry.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said Chonthee was a native of Songkhla province and he was a teacher who worked very hard and devoted his life to education.

"It is a pity that he was killed and became a victim of the southern violence," said the minister.

He added that Ban Tanyong School where Chonthee taught had never asked for protection inside the school. Its administration needed a protection unit for teachers and students on the way to and from the school. The decision was a result of a meeting between teachers and was based on the reasoning that the teachers and students were Thai Muslims.

Meanwhile, Boonsom Thongsriprai, president of the Federation of Teachers in the three southern border provinces, chaired a meeting of the administrations of 370 schools in Narathiwat.

A statement issued after the meeting demanded that authorities arrest the four suspects involved in the killing of Chonthee at the earliest and suggested that the forces send text messages to teachers when they learn about the movement of insurgents who intend to attack teachers.

The meeting also blamed the killing on security authorities and called for an investigation on why the insurgents had now changed their targets to Thai-Muslim teachers.


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