United Nations agencies today called for an end to violence against children in southern Thailand, where five children were killed recently and 12 others injured in escalating unrest in provinces bordering Malaysia.
“UN agencies working in Thailand are deeply concerned about the ongoing violence against schoolchildren in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla,” UN Resident Coordinator Joana Merlin-Scholtes said. “First we saw schools and teachers attacked; now children themselves are becoming targets.”
It is estimated that the conflict in southern Thailand has taken over 2,000 lives in the past three years, including 60 teachers. Over 100 schools have been burned down.
In recent weeks, three students were killed and seven others injured when assailants attacked a boarding school in Songkhla, five primary school students were injured when gunmen fired on their bus in Narathiwat, and two teenage girls were killed while on their way to final exams in Yala province.
These attacks follow a rash of school burnings and attacks on teachers late last year, which led to widespread temporary school closures across the south.
“This is affecting children in all the southern communities and contributes to a climate of fear across the region,” Ms. Merlin-Scholtes said. “Such attacks against innocent children are against all norms and are completely unacceptable.”
UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country representative Tomoo Hozumi called for an end to the violence “so that all children can attend school in a safe and secure environment. Education is the key to present and future development in southern Thailand, and all schools should and must be treated as ‘zones of peace,’” he added.
UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) country director Sheldon Shaeffer said it was important that schools serve as “sanctuaries for children” in the South. “Genuinely child-friendly schools, where cultural, religious and linguistic diversity is respected and welcomed, can do much in the long term to stop the increasingly critical cycle of violence against children,” he added.