Festival Unites Southern Thailand’s Different Cultures

BenarNews Staff

2015-10-30
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Buddhists are a minority in the southern Thai province of Pattani, but every year they celebrate the Chak Phra Festival together with their Muslim and ethnic Chinese neighbors.

This past week residents of Pattani have enjoyed the 66th instalment of the annual festival, a Buddhist tradition in southern Thailand that features food and a parade where dancers and drummers march, as people pull floats decorated with images of the Buddha down local streets.

Locals often refer to the floats as “Buddha image-boats” because some are wooden boats towed by hand with ropes attached to flatbed trailers. These intricately decorated floats bear wood carvings that depict the story of the Buddha’s 10 incarnations.

Festival goers have also savored a smorgasbord of food offerings cooked up by mostly Muslim vendors, such as grilled meats, fish balls, stir-fried noodles and curry, sticky rice, and Thai sweets.

The 10-day, 10-night festival opened Oct. 23, but its crowning highlight was the boat parade that unfolded in Pattani’s Kok Pho district on Wednesday. As many as 100 floats and boats decorated by local temples took part.

Pattani is part of Thailand’s Deep South, a predominantly Muslim region where a separatist insurgency has raged for years.

In the days leading up to the festival, 19 incidents of violence occurred across the region, including 11 bombings that killed seven people and injured another 18, according to Deep South Watch (DSW), a local NGO that monitors violence associated with the conflict. Seven out of the 11 bombings between Oct. 16 and Oct. 21 took place in Khok Pho district itself, but there were no fatalities, DSW reported.

At press time, no incidents of violence had been reported in Pattani during the course of the Chak Phra festival.

"I come every year. I turned 70 this year,” Pranee Chaisongkram, a local resident who danced in the parade, told BenarNews. “I feel so happy seeing people’s solidarity and unity. Unrest is not an obstacle, [and this is a] great opportunity to strengthen our crossed cultures together.”

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