Starting in 2005, the Pattani office of the Asian Resource Foundation (ARF) has undertaken peacebuilding and sustainable development programmes in southern Thailand. Seeing religion as an important part of the conflict, ARF-Pattani runs a programme on inter-faith dialogue to create understanding and respect between young people of different religions.
The organisation addresses young people’s education in the three southern provinces of Pattani, and Yala and Narathiwat. Programmes have included: the establishment of community learning centres where tutoring in both religious tolerance and general subjects is provided; a helpline to provide counselling to those people who have suffered from violence-induced trauma; and the establishment of self-help groups.
The Community Learning Centre
The Community Learning Centre was established in 2005 in order to address problems of rural education in the region of Pattini, South Thailand. Poverty had already made it difficult for children to receive a proper education, but as the violence began and daily shootings forced schools to close, receiving even a basic education became almost impossible.
ARF staff work with people in the local community - village leaders, teachers, the Tumbon Organisation Administration and volunteer students from Songkhla Nakharin University - to develop ways of ensuring education continues despite violence. ARF sees the learning centre as a way of building trust amongst the local community, and challenging the widespread suspicion towards outside groups. ARF offers the idea of an integrated community where local people develop the ideas which ARF then supports.
The Healing Program for Youth
The Healing Program for Youth started in February 2007 to help young people in Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala affected by the conflict. It provides healing workshops and support peace studies for young peeople of all backgrounds, teaching young people religious tolerance and conflict resolution, and supports them in building peace networks at the local and national level.