Southern insurgency: Islamic schools next in firing line?
Bangkok ruling over renowned ponok in Pattani could be a bleak precedent for the peace process Two weeks ago a Bangkok court ruled that the 14-rai grounds of Jihad Withya School at Tha Dan village be confiscated as state property – an order that dismayed local Muslims in Pattani. The school is a renowned ponok (or pondok in standard Malay), a traditional boarding school where just about every local Muslim boy is sent to learn about Islam and what it means to be Malay. Each ponok is run by a headmaster, known as a tok guru, who is held in high esteem by his community. Historians say this longstanding institution helped forge Patani as the cradle of Islamic civilisation in Southeast Asia. Even today, the mystique of the ponoks and the Islamic education they provide continues to attract students from across of Southeast Asia. Jihad Withya was one of several hundred traditional boarding schools that dot this historically contested region. Citing the Anti-Money Laundering Act,