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A Muslim voice lost in translation

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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A Muslim voice lost in translation | Thaiger

SPECIAL REPORT

PHUKET: Seven banners have appeared in Rawai in front of Muslim shops, houses and even a mosque. The English words dominating the banners are jarring to many. However, the Thai translation and the meaning behind the signs tells a very different story. The Phuket Gazette‘s Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai reports.

The signs appeared overnight in a Rawai Muslim community with script reading in three languages: Arabic, Thai and English.

The subtlety and nuances of words has always taken certain artistry to accurately capture an idea, a feeling or a reaction. Nowhere is a deep understanding of the nuisance of tone needed more than when translating sensitive text, be it personal, political or religious.

However, the English message on the sign reads: ‘THIS COMMUNITY WOULD LIKE TO CONDEMN TO THE GROUP OF THE PERSON WHO LOOK DOWN !! TO THE ISLAM RELIGION.’

However, an accurate translation from the Thai written on the banner reads closer to, “This community appeals for the admonishment of people who destroy our religion.”

“The person who made these signs does live in our community,” said Imam Pramote Chockgua, who heads the Masjid Nuruddee Neeyah in Rawai and has one of the seven banners in front of his mosque. “He consulted with us before printing them and posting them in the community. I told him that it was okay to make them as long as they don’t cause any harm,”

Imam Pramote said that the signs had nothing to do with the recent Arab Spring, confirming that they were in protest of the misinterpretation of Muslims in the recent YouTube film Innocence of Muslims, which has been a catalyst for violent attacks on American nationals and interests across the world.

“The images in the movie made Muslims look really bad. If we just ignore it, it would be like admitting that the movie’s portrayal of us was accurate. That is why the signs were made, to show that we disagree with the movie’s content,” he explained.

“We are living in a democratic country and have the right to express our opinion. We don’t want anyone to treat us differently or unfairly,” he added.

However, Imam Pramote was concerned about the tone of the English words on the sign, which is harsher than what is written in Arabic and Thai.

“When the person who made the signs came to talk with us, we all helped him put the words together. Arabic and Thai are our native languages, but we didn’t have any language experts to help us with the English, which is probably why it is a bit too strong.

“We don’t really know the hidden meanings of the words in English. We just looked them up in a Thai-English dictionary and used whatever words came up,” he admitted.

“I had no idea that the English meaning was so strong and maybe considered offensive,” he added.

Imam Pramote explained that he had no desire to cause additional conflicts with the signs, but rather wanted to protect the dignity of the Muslims in the community.

IN THE PUBLIC EYE
A restaurant across from the large Tesco Lotus south of Chalong Circle has one of the seven posters over its entrance. The Gazette tried to interviewed several people at Tesco Lotus, in clear sight of the sign.

Three of them declined to comment on the issue.

However, Esa Boonmalert, a 44-year-old Muslim living in Rawai, explained that it was a personal right to hang the signs, but for him the best way to combat the portrayal of Muslims in the film was simply to be a good, faithful Muslim.

“Though the moviemakers created negative images of Muslims, I still don’t consider them bad people. They are just ignorant of what Islam really is. What is worse are Muslims that don’t practice their own religion,” Mr Esa said.

“Those who don’t really understand Muslim principles are not the ones who should be blamed. Muslims that ignore all the principles and practices are really the ones destroying our religion.

“I have seen many Muslims in other countries strike back violently, and I personally think it was the wrong reaction.

“The best way to solve the problem would be to educate the filmmakers and allow them to apologize,” he told the Phuket Gazette.

An expat also living in the Rawai area, though concerned about the signs, agreed with Mr Esa that the community had the right to hang them.

“It is their right to show how they feel about the issue. If I was them, I would do the same thing,” she admitted.

“However, for me, the best way to make this controversy stop is to keep quiet and let the issue slowly dissolve with time. This whole situation can be compared to a fire. If we don’t put any more fuel onto it, the fire will eventually stop burning,” she said.

“I am not scared about an uprising or anything like that here in Phuket, because the Muslims here are peaceful people,” she added.

ANOTHER VIEW
Imam Aree Samard, who heads the Baan Borrae Masjid and is also the president of Phuket Muslim Relations Association, explained to the Gazette why the signs had not appeared in his community on Phuket.

“It is their right to put up the signs, but we are not doing anything like that in our area (Baan Borrae),” Imam Aree said.

“We had a meeting regarding the issue with Muslims living in other Phuket communities, and agreed that we wouldn’t do any more than we had already done,” he explained.

About a month ago, representatives of each mosque in Phuket visited the US Embassy in Bangkok to file a letter making it clear that they disagreed with the film and would like to see the US Embassy take some sort of remedial action.

“I really saw no point of doing anything else that might cause more conflict,” he added.

After hearing some of the feedback and concern about the signs, Imam Pramote told the Gazette that he now planned to discuss the tone of the translation with the Masjid’s committee and that he was considering making some changes.

“I’m against any slander against any religion. One time I saw a story in the news about a woman who was taking inappropriate pictures of a Buddha statue, and even though I am not Buddhist I was angry about it. It was wrong, and it shouldn’t have happened.

“There are all kinds of people living in our community – Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Bhramins.

“We live together peacefully and in harmony. Each person practices what they believe in, and we always help each other for special events like weddings or funerals,” Imam Pramote added.

— Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions

Tim Newton

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Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | Thaiger

Three of Thailand’s biggest expat areas are seeing sharp rises in new infections, partly from pre-Songkran traffic. The Songkran holidays, now officially over (but will see many people taking today off and making a weekend Songkran extension), and the government says they are expecting to see a rise in the cases numbers reported in the popular holiday locations.

Chon Buri Public Health office says they now have a total of 910 infections since April 1. They have 103 new cases in the past 24 hours. Most new cases are in Bang Lamung district which includes Pattaya City with 47, Siracha with 12) & Chon buri City with 8.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile Phuket has a total of 142 infections recorded on the island with the Governor still insisting there will be no need for a lockdown. Here’s a breakdown of the areas and the numbers of recorded infections so far (below).

Governor Narong announced that the Phuket Infectious Disease Control Committee won’t be implementing an official lockdown, but will “strictly raise the intensity of public health measures to counter the spread of Covid-19″.

“Everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently and install the Mor Chana app (available for free from App Store and Google Play Store).”

A meeting of the CCSA, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to upgrade restrictions in red zone areas around the country, which includes Phuket and Pattaya. Read more about the latest red and orange zones HERE.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

For Hua Hin expats, there’s been 100 new Covid-19 infections announced in Prachuap Khiri Khan in the past 24 hours, 75 cases from Hua Hin. This takes the total in the province since April 1 to 625. Hua Hin accounts for nearly 90% of the district’s total cases.

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Transport

Footbridges stop luxury yacht travelling from Phuket to Samui

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Footbridges stop luxury yacht travelling from Phuket to Samui | Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand's version of the Suez Canal blockage.

Footbridges in Phuket stood in the way of a luxury yacht travelling from its home in Phuket to Koh Samui when the boat was too tall to pass. Police received a call around 8 pm last night from the truck driver after his trailer carrying the yacht had trouble getting under one of several bridges for walkers to pass over the highway. The boat was travelling down Thepkrasattri Road, where it was stopped by the bridge near Baan Tha Reua School. The boat also had trouble at the pedestrian bridge at the Provincial Electricity Authority Thalang Branch and the bridge at Baan Lipon School in Srisoonthorn.

All the bridges were supposed to have a 5-metre clearance, though one observer speculated that all the repaving of the road over the years may have raised the road and lowered the clearance. Traffic police responded to the first bridge incident by sending officers to direct traffic and make sure bikes and cars didn’t pass and impeded progress on freeing the boat. The second incident about 30 minutes later was resolved by letting air out of the truck’s tires to lower it just enough to pass under the bridge. The third snag prompted the driver to go in person to the Thalang Police station to request help yet again.

This time police were less amused and suggested the truck driver try to resolve the issue himself and call back to the police only if he was unable to free the luxury yacht. A traffic police officer went to follow up with the stranded boat at the end of his shift and found the driver had given up and decided to return the yacht to its Phuket origin at Boat Lagoon Marina in Koh Kaew. The boat, now damaged from the bridge bumps, wasn’t going to make it to Surat Thani to be sailed to Koh Samui on this journey. The boat radar had broken off on one of the bridges. No word on any major damage to the pedestrian bridges.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge

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Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge | Thaiger
PHOTO: Hotels and other tourism business are hoping the July 1st reopening goal can still be achieved.

A hotel information blog is claiming that, despite growing Covid-19 numbers, Phuket should stick to its schedule in reopening to travellers without quarantine in July. That’s only 2 and a half months away.

In an interview with the Director of Travel and Tourism Consulting at GlobalData, they stressed that while it is crucial to rein in the spread of Covid-19 and the B117 strain now menacing Thailand, the risk must not overshadow the need to push forward with vaccinations and the march towards eliminating the quarantine by July in order to save the tourism industry and all those dependent on it.

“The Phuket pilot program is essential in creating a path towards economic recovery for Thailand, a country heavily dependent on tourism. More than 17% of Thailand’s gross domestic product is attributed to tourism and the Covid-19 pandemic has lead to the worst economic free-fall in over 20 years”

The blog acknowledges the inherent risk and possible appearance of foolishness to prioritise the plans to reopen and carry on with the same rollout schedule. But they urge Thai authorities to consider that July 1 is still 2 and a half months away, leaving ample time to recover and make progress towards the approaching Phuket reopening. A vital aspect of the reopening plan lies in vaccinating over 70% of Phuket’s provincial residents, a sizable task, but one that brings great benefit with or without the scheduled reopening.

“Pushing ahead to achieve this goal puts Phuket on track to welcome back tourists, perhaps in a “bio-bubble”, and restart the economy. The economy is desperate with household debt growing, pushing the government to enact emergency decrees to provide relief. These households need the return of tourism and the influx of cash international tourists will bring.”

The blog hopes that Thai authorities can balance the necessary Covid-19 safety measures in Phuket to protect the Thai population with the economic need to bring back tourism. They believe that with sufficient measures in place, vaccinated locals could welcome vaccinated international tourists back to Phuket reopening safely in July.

SOURCE: Hotel News Resource

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