A group of 15 Muslim media representatives from ASEAN is on a visit to Thailand from 19 to 25 May, as part of the “Media Familiarization Trip to Thailand” program for 2013. They will visit the deep South, as well, to get first-hand information about the southern situation.
Organized by the Government Public Relations Department, the program is aimed at promoting better understanding about Thailand among Muslim journalists and widening opportunities for greater cooperation in all areas between Thailand and the Muslim world. The 15 media representatives are from four countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
While in Bangkok, the group will call on Mr. Aziz Pitakkumphol the Sheikhul Islam of Thailand, and have a study tour of Bangkok Hospital to observe the operations of the hospital in response to the Thai government’s policy of developing Thailand into a regional medical hub and expanding the medical market in Muslim countries in ASEAN, ahead of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
They will spend three days in the southern provinces of Songkhla and Satun on May 20-22 to observe development work and learn about the local way of living at Ban Muang Ngam community in Songklha and Ban Hua Thang community in Satun. Ban Muang Ngam is a good example of multicultural and empowered communities, with healthy interaction between Buddhist and Muslim residents, while Ban Hua Thang is a pilot village under the “community policing” project, which is an innovative approach and a model for resolving the violent situation in the three southern border provinces of Thailand.
Thailand places the resolving of the southern situation as one of the country’s national priorities. Apart from adopting the “politics leads the military” approach in peace-building operations in the South, It has also focused on a development-led approach in eradicating poverty and providing greater opportunities for local people.
The Government has always maintained a policy of expanding cooperation in all fields with Muslim nations in all parts of the world – Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and even those in Southern Europe. It supports the development of a stronger Thai Muslim community in many aspects, including education and religious affairs.
More than half of ASEAN’s 580 million people are Muslim. Thailand is home to eight million Muslims across the country. Muslims of Malay descent are concentrated in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Satun, and four districts of Songkhla.