This year, there is a special nuance to commemorate the 72nd Independence Day of Indonesia. The invitation of Prince of Songkla University, Thailand to join the Education Exhibition on 17-18 August, through the Majelis Diktilitbang PP Muhammadiyah, was accepted by ten higher education institutions under Persyarikatan Muhammadiyah, including Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta.
Tirakatan, a tradition in Surakarta held at the night before the Independence Day to commemorate the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence by performing reflection and prayer, was carried out by the representative of UMS with the patience of waiting for the plane (in KLIA2 M'sia) which was connected to Hat Yai (Thailand) and was scheduled to arrive at 22:50, by comparing the fruits of independence reached by Indonesia and Malaysia. Approaching the midnight, the trip from the airport to Hansa J.B hotel (which is 14 km away) was accompanied by the reflection and prayer, in which by God’s willing, the driver played the verses of Ar-Rahmans over and over on our Toyota Hiace. “Fabiayyi 'aalaa'i Rabbikumaa Tukadzdzibaan” sounded repeatedly. It was such a tranquil night with the right verse, until we finally arrived at the hotel, precisely at 00:00.
The ceremony to celebrate the 72nd Independence Day of Indonesia was accompanied by offering the advanced study in Indonesia to the students of the 12th grade of Senior High Schools in Thailand. The exhibition was very spacious, yet it seemed so crowded due to enthusiasm of the students, particularly on the first day. Since every school has shuttle bus service for the students, they schools decided to take the students to the exhibition and to have a day-off. Is it appropriate to offer Indonesia as one of the countries suitable for their advanced study?
Nevertheless, among the representatives of Muhammadiyah higher education institutions and other universities from Indonesia, UMS booth was the only one that specially accentuated the Independence Day’s celebration by decorating the red-and-white flag accessories on the booth. It also provided typical Indonesian snacks for students who stopped by at the booth to have further information about UMS.
On Thursday night, 17/08/17, the Indonesian Consulate General held a dinner to commemorate the Independence Day of Indonesia at Meredian Songkla Hotel. In this event, the consulate informed that there is an average of 1300 study visas given to the students from Southern Thailand each year. However, the number is not comparable with the student’s interest to have advanced study in Indonesia.
Based on one study, 1 out of 3 senior high school graduates from Southern Thailand are excited and motivated to continue their study in Indonesia. In 2016, a number of 6150 senior high school graduates in Southern Thailand were reported. Hence, it can be estimated that 2050 graduates are eager to study in Indonesia while the issued visa is only 1300. Moreover, the Consulate General intends to reduce the gap through the Education Exhibition.
Why Indonesia? There are three provinces in Southern Thailand, namely Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, where over 90% of the populations are Muslim and one province (Songkla) where 60% of the population is Muslim. As a minority amid Thailand’s Buddhist majority, those populations yearn for the recognition of their rights, particularly the right to uphold their two cultural identities: as Muslim and as Malay. As an effort, the Muslim communities of Southern Thailand prefer to choose Indonesia, as the Consulate General suggested, at least for several considerations: (1) a cognate in culture and lifestyle (to facilitate adaptation process); (2) proximity (as the members of Asean); and (3) the moderate Islam in Indonesia is in line with their religious perspective.
Hopefully, this prospective mutualistic symbiosis occurs smoothly.