Notes from the Field

From Thailand: First-Ever Thai/Pattani-Malay Dictionary

July 23, 2008

This week in Bangkok, The Asia Foundation and its partners, the Institute of Southeast Asian Maritime States Studies at Prince of Songkla University’s Pattani Campus, published the first Thai to Pattani-Malay/Pattani-Malay to Thai dictionary. Until today, the Pattani-Malay language existed only in spoken form and presented barriers in communication between the majority Thai-language speakers and the Thai-Malay minority population, who speak Pattani-Malay live primarily in the conflict-affected southern region of Thailand.

The new dictionary uses the Thai language script to transliterate spoken Pattani-Malay and offers the first standardized translation for use by non-Pattani-Malay and native Thai speakers to communicate with the local community in the border region of Thailand and Malaysia. Across the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwas, Pattani-Malay is the most widely spoken dialect.

Dr. James Klein, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation Thailand said, “The dictionary is one of the innovative initiatives to address the conflict in the southern border of Thailand and we are pleased to be a part of it,” He added that it would help restore trust between the two communities.

Pattani-Malay, often mistakenly called “Yawi,” reflects strong cultural and religious roots of the region. Because Thai is the official language, civil servants working in the area, whose first language is Pattani-Malay, often have difficulty talking to state authorities. The new dictionary will also help academic, media, and NGO communities working in southern Thailand.

In the conflict-affected south of Thailand, The Asia Foundation is working to improve quality of Islamic school (pondok) education, to help address the root causes of the violence and mitigate impacts of the conflict.

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