Mrs Sobaidah Doloh and her peace award
The presentation of Women’s Peace Promotion Awards on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on March 8 this year caused a big "ooh and aah" because one of the recipients was the director of a pondok (ponoh) Islamic religious school in the deep South which was closed down for four years by the security forces on suspicion of providing shelter to separatists.
Mrs Subaidah Doloh, director of Islam Burapha School in Muang district of Narathiwat, received the award from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for her social works.
"Thanks everyone and every party for their help in pushing for the reopening of the school. I am very glad that I don’t know what to say. I feel grateful and this is a debt that cannot be repaid with any materials. The reopening of the school seems like the reopening of my heart which was close for a long time," said Mrs Subaidah when told of the award.
Mrs Subaidah, the licence holder of the school, and two other school administrators were charged of using or consenting the other people to use the school to teach or train in support of an ideology which poses a security threat or goes against democratic rule. They were however acquitted by the provincial court on November 20, 2012. But five suspected separatists who were arrested together with bomb-making materials were sentenced to death by the Narathiwat provincial court on March 16, 2012.
Ever since the school was closed down, Mrs Subaidah tried to have the school reopened by sending petitions to several organizations. She also participated in several public discussions to present her argument that closing down the school is not the solution to the insurgency problem because the school did not commit any offence.
The closure of the school affected the students - many of them children of fishermen in Muang and Tak Bai districts who chose to study at the school because it also provided accommodation for them.
Throughout the four-year period when the school was shut down, Mrs Subaidah and wives of the Islamic religious teachers or ustaz formed a group called Bu-nga Tam Sao to make sweets and to undertake dress-making to make some earnings to support their families.
"We got our first customer who was a lecturer at the Pattani campus of Prince of Songkhla University. More orders came in so we had jobs to do and income to enable our children to continue their study," said Mrs Subaidah.
Her tireless efforts bore fruit when on December 26, 2011, the school was allowed to be reopened with the support of Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre. But the trouble is not over yet. Recently, the Office of Anti-Money Laundering ordered the land on which the school is located frozen and the case is still pending with the Civil Court.
Apart from being the school director, Mrs Subaidah was named by the SBPAC a member of the committee to rehabilitate victims of the bloody conflict in the deep South.