Radical imagery paraded at school event called child exploitation

Image courtesy of Bangkok Post

In light of a controversial incident at a recent sports day event in the Panare district of the deep south province of Pattani, the Internal Security Operations Command’s (ISOC) Region 4 Forward Command is reportedly preparing to take legal action. This follows the child exploitation allegations as children were paraded holding images of deceased insurgents. The sight has sparked social unrest, especially given the already-high tensions in the Deep South.

The sports day, a collective endeavour by the Ban Nam Bo Tambon Administrative Organisation, Tadika Club, and a variety of public and private enterprises, saw a considerable number of students from 53 local schools participating.

Troublingly, amongst the spectators, a group of children aged between seven and eight years old participating in the opening parade were noted holding photos of nine deceased insurgents, alongside their brief biographies written in Arabic. Their traditional Malay costumes only added to the gravitas of the situation that many are calling child exploitation.

Major General Pramote Prom-in, serving dual roles as the deputy commander of the 4th Army and the deputy director of Isoc’s Region 4 Forward Command, expressed his concern over this unsettling alleged child exploitation gesture, identifying it as a conspicuous act of honouring the separatists. Public and media reactions echo his sentiments, criticising the event organisers.

Pramote shed light on the investigation’s findings, indicating that the controversial display was premeditated by a certain group of Imams and religious teachers. These individuals were previously associated with an insurgent faction and were incarcerated on November 28, 2014, before their eventual release.

“At least three of them still support the separatist group. They also teach children and youths to be against local authorities in every way possible. We will call them for questioning as part of a legal process. We will work with Pattani Provincial Police to gather evidence to press charges against the wrongdoers for using children in a way that violates the Child Protection Act.”

ISOC’s Region 4 Forward Command has instructed various agencies, including the Southern Peace Centre and the Bureau of Public Relations and Special Affairs. The aim is to forge mutual comprehension with Tambon Administrative Organisations, community pioneers, village heads, and Imams whilst ensuring the activities remain suitable and not bordering on child exploitation in the future.

In order to impede any exploitative endeavours, a joint consensus has been reached over the guidelines for children-involved events by the ISOC, Agricultural Land Reform Office and the Office of the Private Education Commission.

In light of efforts to address the issue at its core, Pramote emphasised the importance of instilling understanding among the young ones, reported Bangkok Post. In a resolute manner, he called upon civil groups to condemn those who use children for their partisan political gains.

“Creating understanding among children is the best solution to the root of the southern conflict. Children are like white cloth and they are innocent. We should protect them not exploit them.”

South Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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