Sunday September 30, 2012
Patani not a ‘Malay’ state
I AM thankful for Andrew Sia’s piece on Terrapuri (Terengganu treasure; Living; Sept 24), which I have always liked for its promotion of traditional Malay architecture. However, I must complain about the reference to Patani as “a Malay part of southern Thailand”. This is reflective of the racial mentality which Malaysians are so accustomed to.
Having spent much of my early life in Thailand, including among Thai Muslims, I can say that Thai people are much less polarised than we are.
It is true that Patani was once a separate kingdom before being annexed by Thailand. It is also true that the state’s population is primarily Malay-Muslim. But the writer did not use such words as “Malay majority” or “Malay-speaking”; he simply said the state was “Malay”. I’m curious: how does the land itself acquire a race of its own?
Most people from other parts of Thailand are aware of a Muslim population down south, but they never refer to them as Malays. In other words, race is not so important to them. Which is also why they don’t care that politicians such as Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra are in fact ethnic Chinese.
By emphasising the ethnicity of Patani’s dominant population, you are trivialising Thailand’s diversity and also hampering efforts to stop Malaysian readers from thinking in racial terms.