An eye-opening journey to Ban Ba Ngo school
The cold-blooded killing of two teachers in Mayo district of Pattani on December 11 will go down into historical record of the senseless violence which has plagued the deep South for the past nine years.
The two victims, Mrs Tatiyarat Chueykaew, director of Ban Ba Ngo school in Tambon Panun, and another teacher, Mr Somsak Kwanma, were having lunch at a canteen in the school when their assailants, suspected to be Islamic militants, charged into the school and shot them dead at point-blank range.
The latest murder of the two schoolteachers is parallel to the Ai Payae masjid massacre on June 8, 2009 in which ten Muslim worshippers were cold-blooded gunned down in front of the mosque in Cho Airong district of Narathiwat.
In another senseless incident on December 11, unidentified gunmen opened fire into a tea shop in Ban Batu Muwoh, Tambon Tanyonglimore of Ra-nage district, Narathiwat, killing four Malay Muslims and injuring four others.
Two days after the murders of the two teachers at Ban Ba Ngo school, I paid a visit to the school just for the sake of observation. Driving in my own car, the journey from Pattani township to the school took roughly about one hour.
I chose highway Number 410 heading toward Yarang district which has been regarded as one of the most dangerous roads in the province as far as insurgency attacks are concerned. Luckily, my trip was quite safe.
I passed through several army road checkpoints until I finally arrived in Yarang district where I took the left turn into a road toward Mayo district where the Ban Ba Ngo is located. There was a group of soldiers manning a road block at this junction. They were the last soldiers I saw for the journey to my destination although there were a few other road blocks along the way but none of them were manned.
Arriving at a crossroad with the right turn going toward the Ban Panun school and the left turn toward Ban Ba Ngo school, I took the left turn toward a dirt road which is full of potholes. After crossing a bridge, there is a road checkpoint which was unmanned.
Then, finally, I arrived at the school which has two buildings – an old one which is one-storey high and the other two-storey. The iron front gate is just waist high and in very poor condition which might have already collapsed. To be blunt, the school has no front gate and anybody can easily go into the school undeterred.
Just ten steps from the dilapidated front gate is the canteen where the two teachers were gunned down. At first, I thought the canteen should be located deep into the school compound like most school canteens I have seen. This one is quite different and I didn’t wonder how effortless it was for the murderers to just walk into the school and to kill the two teachers.
There was sand on the canteen floor which was used to cover up the blood from the two victims.
I took a stroll around the canteen and was shocked to see someone watching me through the school fence from a house next door. I then walked out of the school for an observation of its surroundings and found out that the school is not at all isolated but is, in fact, in the middle of a small community. Next to the school stands a house painted in orange colour belonging to the school’s janitor, Mr Abdulrosa Doloh.
I learned that the land on which the Ban Ba Ngo is located was donated by Abdulrosa’s family. But the janitor has been held in custody by security forces who suspected him of involvement in the two teachers’ murder.
I was told by the janitor’s relative, a former paramilitary ranger, that the villagers were very upset by the janitor’s detention because they did not believe he had anything to do with the murders.
Abdulorasa was having lunch at home when the killings took place and he rushed out for a look at the sound of gunfire but was too afraid to intervene. "Who would dare to intervene? It would be suicide," said the former ranger.
After the departure of the assailants, the janitor went into the canteen and helped take the injured teacher, Mr Somsak, to the hospital but he died afterward from the gunshot wounds.
On my way back to Pattani, I used the same route and didn’t see any soldiers until I was nearing Yarang district where I saw a manned roadblock.
Caption : Ban Ba Ngo school in Tambon Panun, Mayo district of Pattani