Pattani, Thailand


Photographer: Biel Calderon

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

In southern Thailand, being a teacher can be dangerous. Across the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, a conflict between the government and an Islamic separatist movement has killed more than 6,000 people since 2004, about 200 of them teachers. “Teachers are worried, but we have to do our job, otherwise, who else would take care of the children?” says Wattana Iso, vice-principal at Pakaharang School, which was set on fire in 2006 and had one of its teachers killed in 2007. Government officials suspect that “pondoks”, traditional Islamic schools, are breeding grounds for radical Islam, and would like to see them closed down. Muslims, for their part, see the secular teaching of government schools as a threat to their religion and culture. Teachers from government-run schools have been one of the main targets of the insurgency. Talks between the government and insurgents started in February 2013, but stalled a few months later. A resolution to the conflict, which dates back to the late 1940s, looks as far off as ever.

Text by Laura Villadiego