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Muslim students’ dress code ‘could be divisive’

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Muslim students’ dress code ‘could be divisive’ | The Thaiger

“I am extremely worried and concerned that this move will widen rifts,” Wisoot Binlateh, the director of Sheikul Islam’s coordination centre in the South, said yesterday.

Parents and academics are expressing concern over the Education Ministry’s move to leave it up to the schools and their monastic landlords to decide on the dress code for Muslim students.

Thailand’s deep South, which is mostly populated by Muslims, is still struggling with insurgency-related unrest for more than a decade.

The Education Ministry’s latest dress-code move is widely seen as a clear signal that Muslim children will not be able to protest if their schools force them to wear a normal Thai school uniform – in effect making it impossible for them to follow religious dress rules of wearing hijabs and long trousers.

Last month, some parents challenged the Anuban Pattani School in Pattani province about what Muslim children studying there could wear. Operating inside a Buddhist temple, this school had long required students to wear school uniforms regardless of their religion. But the parents believed their children should be allowed to follow their Islamic beliefs.

Muslim students’ dress code 'could be divisive' | News by The Thaiger
A protest last month where southern Muslim groups protested about the dress code at a Thai school set inside a Buddhist monastery.

The Education Ministry intervened to ease tension at the time, signalling that Muslim children should be able to wear a hijab and long trousers as long as their colours matched those of the school’s uniform. At that time, the ministry’s school-uniform regulation stipulated that students could dress in accordance with religious beliefs.

But the Royal Gazette on Wednesday published the latest revision to the Education Ministry’s school-uniform rules.

The amendment states that Muslim students can wear school uniforms or wear clothes based on their religious beliefs at schools that are not operating on plots belonging to temples. But if they study at schools which sit on monastic land they must comply with the dress code set by the school and the landlord.

Thousands of state schools in Thailand are located inside monastic compounds. While the Education Ministry’s revision of the school-uniform rule aims to prevent further disputes over the dress code for Muslim students, the move itself has become a cause for concern.

“I really can’t understand why the government will do this: why revise the regulation?” Wisoot said.

He said when Muslim children enrolled in private schools, the government was worried about insurgent ideologies.

“So why does the ministry make a move that would drive Muslim children away?” he said.

Wisoot emphasised that state schools should welcome diversity and foster harmony.

“Children from various religious and cultural backgrounds should be allowed to interact at state schools and learn together,” he said. “State schools should play a role in bringing children of various backgrounds together. If a dress code keeps some children away, they will not grow up in the state-organised inculcation system.”

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member Angkhana Neelapaijit said not allowing Muslim students to dress according to their religious beliefs is a violation of their religious freedom rights.

She was also worried that the dress code could cause divisions among people of different faiths.

“The NHRC has received two complaints about school dress code, related to Anuban Pattani School and Hatyaiwittayalai School. Some parents have even taken their children out of the latter school,” Angkhana said. She said the Hatyaiwittayalai School in fact allowed students to wear hijabs but some teachers were against it and this had caused problems.

Cross Cultural Foundation director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet urged all sides to sit down together and talk.

“Or else, there will be animosity on both sides – Buddhists and Muslims – in the area. Both sides are focusing on winning. But children deserve sympathy and they have got sandwiched between the two sides. This battle, if it goes on, will cause pain to all sides,” Pornpen said.

Muslim students’ dress code 'could be divisive' | News by The Thaiger

STORY: The Nation

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Thailand

Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December

The Thaiger

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Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December | The Thaiger

The point deduction system, for traffic and road infringements, is tentatively scheduled for activation for motorists and motorcyclists in mid-December. It is hoped that the system will help reduce road fatalities and injuries on Thai roads.

The deputy commander of Highways Police Command says that every licensed driver will be given an allocation of 12 points. Each time the driver commits a traffic law violation, points will be deducted. When there are no points left, the driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days, after which the driver or motorcyclist will have to undergo training administered by the Land Transport Department to get their licence back, and another 12 points.

Those who don’t attend the training, however, will have their licence returned after 90 days, but with only 8 points.

Points to be deducted differ, depending on the offence. Offences are divided into four categories:

• One point deduction

Using a cell-phone while driving; exceeding the speed limit; not wearing crash helmets for motorcyclists; not wearing seat belts; not giving way to emergency vehicles, riding on the sidewalk and not stopping for pedestrians on zebra crossings.

• Two points deduction

Running a red light; driving on the wrong side of the road; reckless driving; driving while his/her license is suspended and drunk driving.

• Three points deduction

Organising or promoting street racing without permission; hit-and run; driving while under the influence of narcotics; driving while under the influence of alcohol exceeding 150mg per ml.

• Four points deduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding 200mg per ml, drunk driving in a way which may cause serious injuries or death to the other people; driving in a manner disregarding the safety of the other people or causing trouble to other people.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Economy

Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Environment

Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals

May Taylor

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Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals | The Thaiger

The chairman of the Thai Sugarcane Farmers Association, Thongkam Cheongklad, says a ban on the weed-killer paraquat would have a severe impact on production costs. Academics and Thai sugarcane farmers have also expressed their concern over the ban, saying it could cost the industry up to 570 billion baht.

The Nation reports that up to 1.2 million people working in the sugarcane industry are understood to be against the ban, saying the proposed paraquat substitute is both expensive and ineffective.

The president of the Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists, Kitti Choonhawong, says Thailand has approximately 11 million rai dedicated to sugarcane plantations, generating about 300 billion baht a year.

He claims that a ban on agri-chemicals may lower sugar production, which in turn would affect sugar factories and cause the export market to lose as much as 94.6 billion baht. Thailand is currently the world’s second biggest sugar exporter, behind Brazil.

A research director from the Thailand Development Institute says the ban could ultimately mean the country is not allowed to produce enough food, unless chemical fertilisers are still allowed if chemical pesticides are banned.

Viroj Na Ranong says production costs will still rise however, along with labour costs, adding that the government needs to do its homework.

“The government has to implement measures based on research, not on social trends and politics.”

It’s understood that The National Hazardous Substances Committee will meet on October 27 to decide if a ban on three chemicals currently used in farming will go ahead. The substances involved are paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and the proposal is for them to be banned from December 1.

SOURCE: The Nation

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