Pattani, the capital of a province by the same name, sits in the heart of Thailand’s troubled Deep South and is home to a hodge-podge of cultures and religions where Malay-speaking Muslims have co-existed for decades with Thai Buddhists and ethnic Chinese.
While news of the separatist insurgency casts a shadow across the predominantly Muslim region and security checkpoints are commonplace in the town, there are countless scenes of people from the different communities inter-mingling every day.
There’s the Muslim rickshaw driver transporting a Buddhist monk on his morning round of gathering alms, vendors selling dried fish or the pungent durian fruit at local markets and truant schoolboys idling near a man fishing from a local pier.
“After I finish my morning-prayers every day, I have coffee and come pick him up. I think we need to help each other,” rickshaw driver Paju Samoh, 68, said of his regular fare, Monk Weera, who is 75.
“I will do it until I cannot go on, and then another one will take on this duty,” Paju told BenarNews.