By Dr. Peter J. Foley, editor-in-chief

 

Tomorrow is the King of Thailand’s birthday. It is altogether fitting that this month’s article is a call to honor Thailand’s diversity and institute wide-spread bilingual education throughout the Kingdom. King Bhumbol Adulyadej, Rama IX,  has spent his life promoting and protecting cultural diversity in Thailand, particularly minority rights.  What the King has always understood is that in our sameness we connect and in our differences we grow.  His Majesty has also understood clearly that the road to peace and prosperity starts with the acceptance and respect for one another’s cultures, religions and languages.

 

In this month’s article the author is a Moslem whose mother tongue is Jawi.  His article is a call for bilingual education for the minorities of Thailand.  The author, Ajan Bandhit, makes the telling point that teaching reading awareness in one’s mother tongue at the early ages of 3 to 5 years old makes a huge difference as to whether a child will learn to read well. This fact has been well demonstrated in educational research over the last decade.  But less explicitly, the author also makes the subtle point that a lack of formal recognition of the language of minorities causes even more damage than we first might realize. Not just that generation after generations in the south is unable to compete academically as well as Thai native speaking children.  Not just that this lack of competitiveness in Thai education limits the role of Muslim youth in the Thai job market and steers thousands to jobs in Malaysia and the Middle East.

 

No, what I think is implied in Ajan Bandhit’s article but not stated outright is that if we are to see real peace come to the south of Thailand we need to start by honoring the culture, religion and language of the south .We can start with bilingual education in the public schools.

It is the King’s birthday tomorrow.  Can we not honor him by accepting one another’s differences and thus grow.  Will this not result in the peace and prosperity we all want for Thailand?