Race for the new Chula Ratchamontri
By Ekkarat Mukem*
Mr Sawart Sumalayasak, Thailand’s 17th Chula Ratchamontri or Islamic spiritual leader, passed away on March 24 this year. He was the first Chula Ratchamontri elected under the Islamic Administrative Organisation Act B.E. 2540 succeeding his predecessor, Mr Prasert Mahamad who died in 1997.
Mr Sawart’s passing has suddenly stirred up public interest in the race for his successor. Among the candidates for this important post which is regarded as the chief of the Muslim people in this country are as follows:
- Professor Dr Imron Maluleem, the incumbent vice president of the Islamic Central Committee of Thailand. He graduated from Al Azhar University in Egypt, reputed to be the chief centre of Arabic literature and Sunnin Islamic learning in the world, and completed his doctorate degree in India. Dr Imron was one of the advisors of Mr Sawart and was known to have developed close political connections.
- Mr Thawee (Safa-e) Napakorn, an imam or religious teacher attached to the foundation for the Islamic centre of Thailand, graduated from Egypt’s Al Azhar University. He has the backing of Mr Pichet Sathirachaval, secretary-general of the Islamic Central Committee of Thailand.
- Mr Aziz Pitakkumpol, president of the Islamic committee of Songkhla, is said to have the support of several Islamic committee in the lower South which includes Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
- Mr Aroon Boonchom, president of the Islamic committee of Bangkok, graduated fro Madina University in Saudi Arabia. Among his supporters are Bangkok MP Samai Charoenchang of Democrat party and former president of Islamic committee of Bangkok.
- Mr Vinai (Marawan) Sama-oon, an imam at Kamadool mosque in Min Buri and a former secretary-general of the Islamic Central Committee of Thailand. Although he has not been active in the committee for quite a long time, his active role as an expert in religious affairs and a compromiser has earned him widespread recognition. He used to be a member of the National Assembly and an advisor to the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre.
- Mr Aroon (Kareem) Wan Aeloh, president of the Islamic committee of Nonthaburi, also graduated from Egypt’s Al Azhar University. He was said to have good connection with several former Chula Ratchamontri and has the support of the Islamic committees in the central region.
Election of the Chula Ratchamontri will be held on Sunday May 16. Candidates will be nominated and then voted by 740 members of 38 provincial Islamic committees.
Dr Arong Suthasart, an independent expert and director of the World Islamic Institute, said that the person qualified to be a Chula Ratchamontri must be an expert in Koran and well versed in Islamic law and history and in Arabic and English. Besides, he said that the Chula Ratchamontri must have good human relations and must be able to interact with people from other religious faiths and with the authorities. More importantly, he must have an impeccable record and have a good image.
Thailand’s first Chula Ratchamontri was installed during the Ayutthaya period by King Songtham. He was Shiek Ahmad, a Persian merchant and a founder of the Bunnag family.
*Ekkarat Mukem is the senior reporter from Nation News Agency
Caption : (from left) Professor Dr Imron Maluleem, Mr Aziz Pitakkumpol, Mr Thawee (Safa-e) Napakorn and Mr Vinai (Marawan) Sama-oon