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The government is sending several thousand additional police to the Moslem south, to protect teachers from Islamic terrorists. There are already 150,000 soldiers, police, and local defense volunteers in the three Moslem provinces in the south. In the last eight years the Islamic militants have killed 154 teachers, 34 school staff, and 50 children in the three southern Moslem provinces. Most of the dead were Buddhists from the north (as are most of the teachers). While most Moslems in the south oppose the violence, the anti-Buddhist feelings are perpetuated by revenge killings. Some Buddhist civilians have organized vigilante groups to kill Moslems suspected of being terrorists or supporting them. The vigilantes have an easier time getting past checkpoints and sometimes receive information from the military. The biggest problem is that the vigilantes sometimes kill an innocent person, which causes a lot of anger throughout the Moslem community.
The Islamic terrorists have maintained their presence because they are supported by some criminal gangs and a small segment of the population that is determined to establish the three Moslem provinces (containing about three percent of the Thai population) as an independent country or part of neighboring Malaysia. The majority of Thais refuse to consider that as an option. While most Moslems in the three southern provinces oppose the terrorism, and the attacks on teachers, not enough of them are willing to turn in fellow Moslems who are terrorists. This reticence is encouraged by the terrorists, who threaten or murder Moslems suspected of cooperating with the security forces. This is worse in some parts of the south than others. A lot depends on how strong one of the smuggling gangs is in an area. These gangs have been an important part of the southern economy for generations and the gangs like to portray themselves as the protectors of Moslems. That is why some of the gangs agreed to support Islamic terrorist groups over the last decade. While many pundits insist that the key to eliminating terrorism in the south is economic, if you can’t control or destroy the gang culture the terrorism will not go away.
The government has refused to transfer most of the Buddhist teachers who ask to go back to the Buddhist north. This means the teachers either have to give up teaching (unless they can get a job at a private school) or risk death from Islamic terrorists. Several thousand Buddhist teachers feel they are being forced to work in the south because the government controls nearly all schools in the country. While the government provides some danger pay, and very visible armed guards at schools (as well as armed escorts to and from school for teachers in the most dangerous areas), teacher morale is low down there. Many Buddhists are pushing for a long strike to force the government to let teachers transfer out of the south. But that would leave a lot of schools without teachers and make the Moslem population down their very unhappy.
December 17, 2012: Teachers in the south agreed to return to work in 1,100 schools after the government made some moves and promises to improve teacher security. The danger pay for teaching in the south was increased about $30 a month (to $110). The government agreed to consider providing teachers in the most dangerous areas with bullet-proof vests. The families of murdered teachers are getting $131,000 and free tuition for their children through college.
December 12, 2012: Some 1,100 Schools in the three southern provinces are closing today as some 10,000 teachers and school staff refused to come to work. This was all because of the recent (yesterday and last week) killing of three teachers by Islamic terrorists.
December 11, 2012: In the south five armed men entered a school and killed the principal and a teacher. Elsewhere in the south six rangers were wounded when they were hit by a roadside bomb.