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Yala authorities fear local Muslims will ignore Friday prayer ban

Jack Burton

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PHTOT: Alamy

Officials in Yala in Thailand’s Deep South are urgently trying to convince Muslim leaders of the need to follow orders that suspends traditional Friday prayers at all mosques. The Chularatchamontri, spirtual leader of Thailand’s many Muslims, ordered prayers suspended over worries that large gatherings may spread the Covid-19 coronavirus. Provincial governor Chaiyasit Panitpong, meanwhile, appealed to residents to contact health authorities if they suspect anyone is infected.

Yala is one of the 4 southern border provinces that are home to Thailand’s Southern Insurgency, a decades old separatist movement which has killed more people than the Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. It’s also the southern province hit hardest by the pandemic. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration yesterday reported the number of infections there at 35, one more than neighbouring Pattani, but the provincial health department in Yala posted 41 cases.

As of this morning (Thursday) there have been 12 deaths nationwide attributed to the virus, two of them in Yala, and all during a three day span, between Sunday and Tuesday this week. Both victims had visited Kelantan state in northern Malaysia on separate occasions, and both also developed symptoms after returning to Yala.

On March 25 the Chularatchamontri announced the suspension of Friday prayers at all mosques.He advised all Muslims to pray at home, to help curb the spread of the virus.

Friday prayers at the local mosque are the most important prayers of the week for most Muslims. Authorities worry that large gatherings could seriously worsen the spread of Covid-19. They have locked down Yala province since Sunday, when infections suddenly spiked, telling people to stay in their homes.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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