Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has stressed the Government’s efforts to tackle problems in the southern border provinces.
The Prime Minister stated that Muslim Thais have played significant roles in developing the country in all areas. The statement was part of her speech delivered at the closing ceremony of the Central Mawlid Festival.
The festival took place at the National Administration Center for Islamic Affairs on 23-26 March 2013 in Nong Chok district, Bangkok. It is an annual event to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
Prime Minister Yingluck cited the Central Mawlid Celebration as an important festival for Muslim Thais, when they show their faith in God and their upholding of religious principles. Islam is the world's largest religion today. Out of the population of 600 million persons in the ASEAN region, more than half, over 300 million, are Muslims.
The Prime Minister said that the Government is determined to develop the quality of life of Muslim Thais in all aspects, such as education, religious practice, health promotion, employment generation, and the protection of their lives and property.
In Thailand, Muslims of Malay descent are concentrated in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Satun, and some districts of Songkhla. Ninety-nine percent are Sunni and one percent Shi’ite.
Prime Minister Yingluck said that the Government has facilitated the travel of Muslim Thais to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage. It has provided pilgrims with various services to ensure their welfare during the Hajj observance in Saudi Arabia. For instance, the Government has sent a medical team to Saudi Arabia to provide health services for the Hajj pilgrims free of charge.
As the number of Hajj pilgrims is on the rise each year, she said, the authorities would seek ways in their coordination to provide them with better care and more convenience. More flights have been arranged for Hajj pilgrims in Narathiwat this year.
The Prime Minister said that the Government has a policy to promote Thai halal food production and exports. Emphasis is placed on developing the standards of Thai halal food, so that it would gain greater recognition in the international community. She found that during her visits to Muslim countries, Thai halal food was well-accepted. The Government is ready to work with Muslim Thais to develop halal food in order to increase its share in the world market.
She called on Muslim Thais to cooperate in boosting Thai products among Muslims in ASEAN and beyond. All Muslim Thais were also urged to help create better understanding about Islamic principles among the people. The Government is also ready to promote relations between Muslim Thais and those in the rest of the Muslim world.