Uni wraps up probe into sports day banner

A student in a Yala Rajabhat University parade last Saturday carried a sign which said, 'May we call ourselves the people of Patani?', which many took as a signal for separation. (Photo via Waymarking.com)

The results of an inquiry into an incident in which a banner bearing what appeared to be a pro-separatist message was paraded during a recent sports day at Yala Rajabhat University are expected Tuesday.

The university launched the inquiry after a banner with the message, "May we call ourselves the people of Patani?" sparked outrage on social media as it was displayed in a parade on March 11. The university said the banner ran counter to the reconciliation image it strives to promote.

"Patani", referring to the historical Patani region, was a semi-independent Malay sultanate.

The word is often associated with separatist movements.

Yala Rajabhat University rector Sombat Yothathip said the inquiry panel would announce its results Tuesday.

Yala Rajabhat University rector Sombat Yothathip presided over Saturday's parade but reportedly was shocked by the 'separatist' sign. (FB/sombatyru1)

The university held an internal meeting attended by its departments, faculties and the student body to discuss the issue.

Pictures of the controversial banner were circulated on social media, drawing criticism from netizens, some of whom questioned whether the students were taking a pro-separatist stand.

Panu Uthairat, representing a special government working team on security affairs in the far South, issued an online statement on the controversy.

He said he received an explanation from the university rector saying the banner was displayed during the sports day without authorisation from the student council or university officials.

It was possible that the banner was the work of ill-intentioned individuals who took advantage of the celebration to publicise their cause, Mr Panu said.

The university vowed to take swift action against any staff member found to be involved in the stunt.

Mr Panu added the rector insisted the university had a clear policy that its sports day celebration must promote national reconciliation efforts.

Meanwhile, the Fourth Region Army said security forces would be on a heightened state of alert for Tuesday's anniversary of the foundation of the outlawed separatist movement Barisan Revolusi Nasional Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).

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