Religious school denies allegation of fund misuse to support insurgency activity

A private Islamic religious school in Pattani has sought justice after it was accused by the military of diverting state fund to support southern separatist groups in the restive region.

Troops from the 4th army region raided the Bakong Pittaya school in Nong Chik district of Pattani in February in which propaganda documents and several fire extinguishing tanks and LPG cylinders were uncovered.

The troops also found evidence suggesting that education fund sent to the private-run Islamic school was allegedly embezzled and diverted to support insurgency activity.

The security force claimed that the school only spent 20 percent of the fund for textbooks to buy textbooks for students and asked the supplier to issue receipts claiming 100 percent of the fund.  Also, the school paid teachers with a degree 7,000-8,000 baht a month instead of 15,000 baht as it was required to pay, claiming that the teachers themselves agreed to have their salaries deducted for other teachers who do not have a degree.  On top of that, the school was accused of keeping to itself part of the 2,500 baht/month risk allowance meant for each teacher who was actually given only 1,000-1,500 baht/month.

Citing investigation of money trail, the security force claimed that the school gave monthly handout to Sakariya Hatsamat, a suspected militant wanted by security forces for a serious of violent incidents, since 2012, until his arrest in July 2016.

In a statement of clarification, the school claimed that it has altogether 121 staffers, including ordinary teachers, religious teachers, general affairs personnel, committee and foundation officials.

The school admitted that it hired teachers who do not have teaching certificates as baby sitters for kindergarten students, but it rejected the accusation that it inflated the number of students in order to claim full state funding.

Samarn Abdulmanae

“We opened the school because we want to teach the students.  We do not intend to make profits or do business as alleged and we didn’t cheat,” said Mr Samarn Abdulmanae, the license holder of the school.

It was reported that the Education Ministry has ordered the transfer of officials of the provincial private school office after evidence of suspected misuse of fund for the Bakong Pittaya school was uncovered.

According to the Education Ministry, there are now 185 private Islamic religious schools in Pattani, 73 in Narathiwat and 39 in Yala.  About 1,000 million baht budget is allocated each year for the private schools in the three provinces.