New Mandala readers in Canberra may be interested in Friday’s seminar on “The Crisis in Southern Thailand: Cultural Policy, Gender Issues and Reconciliation Prospects” The seminar will be held Friday May 11, 2007 9.30-11am in Seminar Room D, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (Coombs Building), The Australian National University. I will attend and write a brief summary post. Here is the announcement:

Currently, the Muslim-majority provinces of Southern Thailand are embroiled in one of Southeast Asia’s most violent conflicts. Formally incorporated into Thailand early last century, the area has been the centre of prolonged conflict for many years. Recently, conflict has become more intense. Over 2000 lives have been lost in the last three years, and there are now dangers of sectarian conflict between Muslims and Buddhists. There are many forces working to resolve southern problems – officials, NGOs, academics, and the National Reconciliation Commission (2005-2006) which last year issued recommendations for a change in government policies (including adopting Malay as a working language). Members of the visiting delegation are well-placed to report on these efforts and evaluate prospects for overcoming the violence.

Delegation members are:

Assistant Professor Dr Worawit Baru, from Prince of Songkhla University in Pattani and a member of the National Reconciliation Commission. He is a frequent commentator on events in the South, with a particular interest in language policy, politics, and government policy.

Assistant Professor Arin Sa-idi, from Prince of Songkla University, Pattani Campus, and the founder of the Friends of Women group which helps victims of the southern violence.

Mr Waeyusoh Samaalee, a distinguished former public servant. He served in the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre as a cultural officer. He has compiled a dictionary on Thai-local Malay terms, and he is involved in bilingual curriculum design which is being piloted in the South of Thailand. He is also involved in PUSAKA, an educational foundation that supports the educational activities of Tadika (informal schools for young Muslim children). He is also President of the Muslim Business Association of Pattani.

Mr Tanate Adulyakij is Director of the Ministry of Culture, Pattani Office. He is the first Muslim director of the Provincial Ministry of Culture in Pattani.

Mrs Suphacha Somsong is a cultural officer from the provincial office who is currently involved in data collection on Malay culture.

The delegation is sponsored by the Australia-Thailand Institute, and their visit co-ordinated by La Trobe University, the Thai National Studies Centre, ANU and the University of Technology, Sydney.