One year after the Aipayae incident – a tragedy that most want to forget
By Sumeth Panpetch
Time flies. A year ago today (June 8) in Ban Aipayae, Tambon Juab of Joh-i-rong district, Narathiwat province, a group of gunmen arrived unannounced in a pick-up truck in front of the Al Furagon mosque and opened fire indiscriminately into the mosque with automatic rifles. After the gunshots died down, ten mosque-goers were found dead and 12 others injured.
The brutal attack, known among the Thai Muslims in the far South as the Al Furagon incident, was regarded as the worst ever took place in the restive region for the past six years with its repercussions being felt by Muslims the world over.
After one year, it appears that there is not much progress about the case. Two suspects have so far been sought by the police, but only one of them, Mr Sutthirak Kongsuwan, turned himself in Bangkok to face the charges. He denied the charges however.
During the early days in the aftermath of the deadly attack, the Ban Aipayae village was crowded with curious visitors who came from different places to take a look of the attacked mosque. Many cars and pickup trucks were seen lining the road in front of the mosque for several kilometers long.
But one year afterward today, the road is mostly deserted with a few cars passing through the mosque once in a while. As for the mosque itself, no traces of the gun attack are visible from the outside of the premise which was already repaired and repainted with financial support from the state.
The only difference about Al Furagon mosque from the other mosques in the province is the permanent presence of 5-6 territorial defence volunteers at the premise supposedly to provide protection to worshippers.
A defence volunteer said that each team of volunteers would be on duty around-the-clock at the mosque for a ten-day period after which the team would be replaced. On top of the volunteers, the village is patrolled by an army patrol unit on daily basis.
After the initial shock and fear, normalcy has returned to Aipayae village as most villagers are going about their lives as usual.
Mr Kordae Yapa, the imam of the Al Furagon mosque, said that the situation has improved and most villagers no longer talk about the tragic incident a year ago – thanks to the help and vocational training project extended to the village as well as remedies for families of the dead victims and the injured.
He admitted however that some villagers still talk about the case while most villagers have resigned to the fact that they would have to leave it to the police to pursue the case.
Ms Zaiton Arwae, daughter of a dead victim, admitted that the mental health of her family members had improved as they were able to live a normal life even without their father, the breadwinner. Besides a decent financial support from the state, she said that her sister now has a 4,500 baht per month job provided by the district office.
As for Ms Zaiton, she said she was getting 1,500 baht a month as educational fees provided by the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre. The centre, she added, also promised to support her study until she finishes university-level education.
As for the tragedy a year ago, she admitted that she didn’t want to mention it ever again and also didn’t want to hear about it either as it would hurt a lot.
1 Al Furagon mosque
2 Mr Kordae Yapa