A minority majority
Although the Pattani Malay make up only four percent of Thailand's population, they are the majority population within the five southernmost provinces of the country.
In addition to their location, the Pattani Malay are separate from the rest of Thailand in a number of ways. They are Malay in their race, heritage, language and culture. While Thailand is 94 percent Buddhist, almost all of the Pattani Malay are Muslim.
Traditional Pattani wear clothing which reflects their Muslim tradition. The majority speak Jawi, a Malay dialect.
The Pattani were a Malay people with a powerful kingdom that was overtaken by the Thai. They understand themselves to be a different people living under the Thai kingdom. Pattani often intermarry with the Malay across the Malaysian border rather than with the Thai.
The mosque and the community
The mosque and Muslim festivals and observance play an integral part in the life of the Pattani Malay people. The mosque is a place not only for religious practices, but also the place where cultural identity is expressed. It provides education and is at the center of community celebrations in these fishing and farming communities.
As a leader of the mosque, the Imam is often regarded as the leader of the village or community. Because there is a level of distrust of some Thai governmental authorities, who are Buddhist and speak only Thai, many of the Pattani turn to the mosque and Muslim religious and community leaders to provide a channel for voicing their concerns.
Another important figure in Pattani religious life is the "bomoh." The bomoh is a folk healer that acts as a mediator or median between the spirit world and the earthly world. He provides fortune telling as well.
Despite their resistance to the Thai language and culture, the Pattani have adopted the Thai belief in "phi's" or ghosts. So in reality, the Pattani practice a blend of Islam, folk and animist beliefs.
Population: +\- 2 to 3 million
Religion: Sunni Muslim
Language: Malay dialect; Thai
Geographical location/s: Five southern provinces of Thailand; substantive community in Bangkok, Thailand
Percentage evangelized (access to the gospel): 25 percent
Profile: Tradition: gone with the tide
One of the Pattani Malay's more colorful traditions, the "kolae" fishing boats are becoming more and more rare along the coast of southern Thailand. The kolae are striking because of the intricate paintings that grace the side of these long wooden boats. Beautifully carved and painted, most kolae display the image of the naga, a powerful mythical creature of the sea.
Built to last, these hand-crafted vessels are usually passed down from father to son. Many fishermen try to continue the tradition by refurbishing old kolae, because it is so expensive to buy a new one. There are only a few craftsmen left who make and paint the trawlers.