THAILAND: Power of Walking, Power of Minds: Why Are We Walking to Pattani? 

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following article from Ms.Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Coordinator of Cross Culture Foundation (CrCF).

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

An article from Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Coordinator of Cross Culture Foundation (CrCF) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Power of Walking, Power of Minds: Why Are We Walking to Pattani?

Power of Walking, Power of Minds: Why Are We Walking to Pattani?

Released in Thai by Isara News Center on August 25, 2010 (click here).

The activity “Dhama Yatra for Peace to Pattani” (Peace March to Pattani Province) is lead by Mr. Gothom Arya, Director of the Research Center for Peace Building, Mahidol University. The peace march started on July 11, 2010 from Nakon Pathom province to Pattani province. The hope is to encourage society to recognize the importance of using peaceful means to quell the southern unrest. Pornpen Kajornkiat, as a volunteer who has written the article, tells of his experience of walking the path to Pattani periodically as he joined the marchers for peace.

Power of Walking, Power of Minds: Why Are We Walking to Pattani? 

By Pornpen Khongkachonkiet

23 August 2010, Bangkok
I first joined the Pattani Peace Walk on 26 July 2010, and covered a distance of 28 kilometers from Prachuab Khiri Khan town to Tab-sakae district over the course of one day. I surprised myself with how much I could actually walk in a day. Life in Bangkok is different. I leave home every morning with my car key to start the engine. Then, after driving to work, I walk not even 20 steps to my office from the car.

With regards to short distances in Bangkok, even between bus stops, my response is “No way, I’d rather not.”

In addition, I was amazed by the power of the steps and minds of the members of the Pattani Peace Walk team. I have followed the teams committed to walking peacefully to Pattani beginning on 11 July 2010. I am convinced that the power of the steps and minds of the teams will help make peace real in Pattani.

Pattani is the destination of the Peace Walk. Not all teams perceive the complexity of the problem in Pattani, but everyone believes that peace can happen. Everyone knows that in order to end the conflict, they will have to stop killing each other and respect each other. They all believe that they will deliver their last steps to the people of Pattani and this will become the first step for peace in Pattani.

This will be a spark that will cause all parties to realize the importance of ending violence and creating peace together. But how can we reach this goal when some cannot see clearly? I think that as the Peace Walk teams grow closer to Pattani, each step will bring this goal closer.

The first day of the walk was the first time that I had walked such a long distance. I was advised to walk with mindfulness, to do a “Dhama Yatra” (Peace March). This way, it is possible to easily walk tens of kilometers. Someone explained that in doing a “Dhama Yatra”, it makes it possible for a group of people who are walking together to share life and principles larger than private, daily usual life. For sharing life and living, eating, and resting together as a community for one period of time makes it possible to practice mindfulness. It is simultaneously aimed to create peace in one’s heart. It is meant to create friendship and also peacefulness which can indirectly reach society.

But my heart was not at peace. All I could think about was a 16-year-old child who was detained for more than 7 days. Why have young people become the target of using and creating violence as a cycle of brutality? Isn’t this a child who should be protected? In my mind, I felt anger towards those who used children to create violence, and felt anger towards the authorities involved in suppression who want to use children as witnesses and informants, and who arrest and detain them for interrogation. Later I learned that the 16-year-old child was released after being detained and interrogated for an additional three days. That day I traveled back to Bangkok to work. But I also decided to join the walk, and to try to do so with a calmer heart.

I joined the Peace Walk for the second time for almost 200 km between the provinces of Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat. From 11 to19 August 2010 during the walk I announced (by sending SMS) that I had joined the team of Ajarn Gothom. But I didn’t hear from anyone in Pattani what they thought about the initiative. The peace walk covered more than 1100 kilometers over 50 days. There were people from the central, northern, and northeastern regions, and news of the walk was even broadcast on television a few times. There were villagers along the route who gave encouragement to the walkers and even gave us food and water. But we heard very few voices from the people in Pattani.

We did not have even one person from Pattani walking with us … We don’t let this slip through our minds.

While I was walking I heard a story via telephone that made me sad for the entire journey. A detainee died in jail of unknown causes. He was from Pa Thae sub-district, in Yaha district, in Yala province. He was arrested and had been detained for a year. When he was arrested and interrogated, he was tortured and was unconscious for two days. When he woke up, he was in a police station. After that, he was sent to jail and a case was being made against him.

As time went by, this detainee’s condition improved, but he still had to seek treatment from the hospital inside and outside the jail. When he died, his family did not give permission for the coroner to perform an autopsy, so we will never know what really killed him. It is said that he went into shock and died while alone on the day before the first day of Ramadan

Even during the month of Ramadan, which began on August 12, one continues to hear the sound of bombs and guns. We also heard the news of bombs and guns continuously while we were walking.

On the third day of the walk, I received a telephone call from Narathiwat, telling me that a suspect who was fleeing an arrest warrant had been shot dead. Previously, we had tried to help him surrender, but were unsuccessful. Many suspects lack confidence in the judicial process. There are also other factors which may cause them to choose paths other than the Thai legal system.

Every person who joins the Peace Walk will have his or her own detailed and different stories. For me, I have long been aware of the violence in the southern-most three provinces. It causes me to think about what can be done for each side to have mercy and compassion for the other sides, so they will choose nonviolence and respect for one another. Detainees in jails should receive better healthcare. The people and the authorities should have faith in peace as a way to call for what they want. How can each side become more tolerant than they are not? This is needed to make the sound of the guns and the sound of the bombs die down.

As we grew closer and closer to Pattani, brothers and sisters from Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat began to send us encouragement to keep going and keep struggling. Some said, “When you are almost here, we will walk with you also.” I received a phone call from a soldier in the area who said that he was going to join the walk to Pattani also. He sent us snacks and said to tell him if we needed People send us snacks along the way, and said to tell him if we needed anything.

This encouragement helped soothe our blistered feet, and it made us feel glad that those outside the Walk had such good wishes for us. We recognize that the Muslim brothers and sisters and the soldiers who have been in the area for 6-7 years also call for peace … although we are still working to figure out how to make this real, rather than an imagined dream.

During the walk from the Surat Thani province to Nakhon Si Thammarat, we walked on Highway 401. For much of the trip, we walked through Thai Buddhist and Muslim villagers along toast of the Gulf of Thailand. This caused us to recognize and understand the problems of the area of southern Thai referred to southern development economic plan as the Southern Seaboard, and the problems of environmental degradation, those caused by man and the nature, these problems have greatly affected the way of the life of people living along the coast. This is also made us realize that there is contention everywhere in Thailand, but in many places people can still live together without violence.

Are there paths to ending violence? And what must we do? This Peace Walk to Pattani helped spread the message of peace. Yet while we were walking, Ajarn Gothom Arya told the people we met all along the path that the Walk was only a “process.” Now, Ajarn Pramuan Phengchan (former Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University) who walked from Chiang Mai province to his hometown in Ko Samui, Surat Thani province, and wrote a book called Walk for Freedom) has used the word “tactic.”

But the way of reaching peace of each side must be done with hands, or feet, together.

Whether it is “process” or “tactic,” and whether it succeeds this time or not … How much longer will the sound of bullets of guns and bombs be louder than the call for peace? The final signal that I heard the last night was a friend from Narathiwat was going to travel to meet the Peace Walk team in Pattani on 1 September at the Pattani Central Mosque.

We hope the call for peace will truly drown out the sound of bombs, with the determination and steps of every peace-loving person in this world.

Read more information of Dhama Yatra to Pattani, please click here.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

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Document Type : Forwarded Article
Document ID : AHRC-FAT-045-2010
Countries : Thailand,