Language unites Malay and Siamese community
Published on: Friday, June 05, 2015
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Perlis: Thai is no foreign language to villagers residing in Kampung Guar Syed Alwi. Though it is a Malay settlement located on the outskirts of Kangar, Perlis, its residents speak the language as if it is their mother tongue.

Not only does the language facilitate communication but it also unifies the villagers and the Siamese community living nearby, especially Guar Ujong Batu.

Though the children are more comfortable speaking in Bahasa Melayu, the adults maintain usage of the Thai language daily.

Abdul Karim Pin, chairman of the Guar Syed Alwi Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) said speaking in Thai does not mean forgetting Bahasa Melayu.

Official events and various functions are still being conducted in Bahasa Melayu.

For 54-year-old Abdul Karim, the ability to converse in Thai has fostered close ties with the Siamese community in Malaysia as well as Thai nationals.

The village frequently received guests from the neighbouring country, most recently a delegation from the Phuket Islamic Council on May 22.

Though some may feel odd being in a village with over 900 Malay residents who speak Thai, the language has clearly become part of the over 100 year old settlement.

"It is not that we have sidelined Bahasa Melayu, but we feel at home with the Thai language and it has been used for generations," he said.

The village formerly known as Guar Setoi and its residents are believed to have close relationship with the people of the Setoi state, now known as the Satun Province, Thailand bordering Perlis.

The village then changed its name to Guar Syed Alwi after the name of the 4th Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Alwi Jamalullail, who ruled Perlis between 1904 and 1943.

The significance of the language similarities to strengthen the unity among Siamese and Malay community was also supported by a Siamese community activist, Datuk Siw Chun a/p Eam.

Thai was widely used among the Malays who live in villages shared by the Siamese community, especially in states like Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The former senator who became an activist for the Siamese community for 26 years admitted that she appreciated Bahasa Melayu though Thai was her mother tongue.

She said regardless of Thai or Bahasa Melayu, language had created a bond, especially among its speakers.

The former Malaysian Siamese Association (PSM) president said her father's stepfather, who is a Malay from Titi Tinggi, Perlis, also speaks in Thai and Malay.

"We feel like siblings despite being of different races. Our life is harmonious," said Siw Chun who is fluent in Malay.

The Thai and Malay languages are complementing each other in creating harmony in these villages.

Siw Chun, who is also chairman of the Malaysian Siamese Foundation (YOSM), is advocating the Thai language by helping to manage classes nationwide.

However, financial constraints due to the lack of funds from the government is making it difficult to keep the classes going.

Meanwhile, a survey by Bernama found that some of the Siamese community used Malay nicknames which indirectly fostered warmth in the two-way relationship.

The Thai language is also seen as able to strengthen border ties not only in terms of business but also family relationships.

This is why people living at the border have mastered the language, regardless if they are Malay, Chinese or Indian.

Besides that, the media relationship between Malaysia and Thailand have also received a boost through the Thai language in addition to English and Malay.

The Perlis Media Club (KEMPs) and The Press Association of Southern Thailand, for example, used all three languages as a communication tool.

Members of the Perlis media have also attended the Thai language courses as an effort to improve their relationships with their counterparts in Thailand.

China Press journalist Abdul Karim Ahmad, who is fluent in Thai, said he had no qualm if he were to cover a story in southern Thailand.

Being able to converse in Thai, which is the language spoken in his home, made it easier for the 64-year-old to do work in the neighbouring country.

Though the slogan "bahasa jiwa bangsa" says that language is the soul of the people, language is also a contributing factor to unity.

Whatever language is spoken will definitely become an agent for unity, provided it is understood and used properly. – Bernama


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