Hundreds of young Cambodian Muslims are studying without regular permits in some southern schools. A meeting is scheduled with representatives of over 600 schools in the provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla. A local source notes that schools used by Islamic rebels recruit and train young people.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) - In order to fight illegal immigration and growing Islamic radicalism in Thailand’s southern provinces, where Thai Muslims are concentrated, the Thai government has begun to monitor ponohs, private madrassas (Islamic schools).
Security forces report that Islamic separatists are using some schools as training camps and host hundreds of Cambodian students without a regular residence permit.
Thailand’s Immigration Office (IB) now plans to meet with representatives of over 600 Islamic schools in the provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla.
At the meeting, the IB will listen to the school operators' opinions and improve their understanding of the importance of respecting to immigration laws, said IB chief Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn.
"We are glad that students from neighbouring countries are coming here for their religious education, because we know that Cambodia does not yet have a proper Islamic school," he explained.
"We are not saying Cambodians are coming to cause problems in our country, but if they overstay, immigration police have to arrest them and follow the laws," he added.
The Ministry of Education has launched a survey to see the number of Cambodian Muslims studying in Islamic schools in the south, but official data are not yet available.
Schools are now required to submit detailed reports of every enrolled Cambodian student to the ministry.
Late last month, 11 Cambodian Muslim men aged 16 and 29 were detained after a raid at Mudrolatulfalah school. They were later deported back to their country for overstaying their visas.
Most of them came through the checkpoint in Sa Kaeo, whilst a few came via the checkpoint in Songkhla.
The raid was carried out after security authorities were alerted to concerns about the school's physical training programme, which was carried out at night.
A security source told the Bangkok Post that the school had a history of hosting southern insurgents and offering students an unarmed combat training programme.
Some reports indicate that some rebel armed groups are trying to enlist young Cambodian Muslims. The separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) have already recruited 12-year-old children in an attempt to build a new guerrilla force.