PATTANI — Public health measures imposed to deter the coronavirus infection means Muslims in the south must lose several traditions associated with Ramadan.
Shopping for fast-breaking at bazaars, a favorite tradition for many, is now a hassle, and mosques aren’t allowed to hold the nightly prayers.
“Going to the market isn’t fun anymore because there’s so many regulations,” Fitra Jehwoh, 29, an NGO worker living in Pattani city said Thursday. “It’s no longer the highlight of the day.”
Security officers are stationed around the markets to measure body temperature, hand out hand gels, and make sure people comply with social distancing. Some markets are closed down altogether.
The holy month of Ramadan began on April 24, about the same time dozens of infection cases are found in Thailand’s Deep South.
Fitra said she’s noticed considerably fewer people out shopping because many cook at home, many are scared of contracting the coronavirus. Some villages where infections were found are under lockdown, preventing residents from coming out to shop.
Local mosques are also not holding the nightly prayers after breaking the fast. The Sheikhul Islam Office, the national authority on religious matters, have asked Muslims to celebrate Ramadan at home rather than congregate at mosques for prayer and other religious activities.
“Most people go to it, but now we must turn our home into a mosque,” Fitra said.
Dozens of COVID-19 infections were linked to a religious pilgrimage of Thai Muslims returning from Indonesia to their homes in the Thai Deep South. The Sheikhul Islam Office had called for a halt on these pilgrimages.
At the Ramadan Market in Khuan Don district in Satun, there are only 80 vendors Saturday compared to last year’s 150. All stalls must have plastic coverings and sanitizing gel for customers.
Arima Samun, a kanom jeen seller, said she was selling only 20 kilograms of the noodles per day instead of 70 kilograms per day.
In Narathiwat’s Balehilae Market, stalls are set far apart from each other and only 200 people are allowed inside at any time. The market has one exit and entrance, where people must hand over their ID cards and have their temperatures taken.
Everyone must wear masks; no one under 5 or over 70 is permitted inside.
Three markets in Pattani city are allowed to operate: Jabungteekor, Thanon Pak Nam, and Toh Roong markets. Sellers at Jabungteekor Market said that they were making less income than in previous Ramadans due to fewer customers.
“The queues are quite long and it’s quieter than most years,” Anwanif Datoh, a customer at the market said on the first Sunday after Ramadan began.
Ramadan bazaars aren’t a tradition in the capital, where many prefer shopping from the supermarkets.
Noorulhuda Chalermthai, 27, lives in the Bangkok city center and shops at the supermarket to cook at home, like the average Bangkokian. But she says working from home has actually given her more flexibility for Ramadan.
“In the past years, sometimes I would finish work late and would have to have iftar (breaking the fast) and pray at my office. Also, some nights I get home late and I would be too exhausted to do the Taraweeh prayers,” Noorulhuda said today. “But this year, I can just do that at home which is more convenient and I feel that my goals are fulfilled easier.”
A 2018 census by National Statistics Office of Thailand found that 5.4 percent of the Thai population is Muslim, or around 3.7 million people. Most live in the southern region.
The UN Thailand page also posted Thursday some guidelines for Thai Muslims practicing Ramadan in the era of COVID-19.
Zakat, or alms, should be given to those affected by the pandemic, cook own meals at home, preferably hot ones, pray and read the Qu’ran at home, and strengthen family ties and use technology to talk to friends are just some of the suggestions.