Bangkok, February 13, 2014 — On February 8-9, The Asia Foundation, in cooperation with local partner, the Center for Conservation for Local Culture and Environment in Southern Border Provinces of Thailand (PUSTA), and event co-host, the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC) organized the Village Renaming Celebration Event. The event was held in two parts: the Saturday event was held at the Prince of Songkhla University, Pattani Campus, and on Sunday, at the Mengabang Village in Saiburi District, Pattani. Provincial governors, district chiefs, and representatives of the 10 villages attended the two-day event, which included panel discussions on community rights, reflections by members of the audience, and a ceremonial parade.
The celebration event marks the culmination of a 15-month pilot project that the Foundation and PUSTA have conducted in partnership with SBPAC in 10 villages across southern Thailand.
The project has supported local efforts to address one of the longstanding grievances of the Malay-Muslim majority population of the southern border provinces and a root cause of century-old conflict by recognizing, promoting, and preserving the unique identity, language, and culture of the community. For decades, the Malay-Muslim community has called for the renaming of villages in a manner relevant to and consistent with the unique historical, cultural, and language identity of the region.
In 2012, with support from the Foundation and technical assistance from PUSTA, 10 local villages embarked on a two-year renaming initiative that included local historical research conducted by community members; a series of community forums and village councils; and advocacy with government offices from the sub-district level up to the national level. In late 2013, SBPAC formally adopted the reform initiative by endorsing the renaming of the 10 villages and the replacement of village signposts to include Yawi script. Police Colonel Tawee Sodsong, Secretary-General of SBPAC, attended both events and announced the government’s commitment to extend the renaming initiative to similarly affected communities across the Deep South.