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16 Jun, 2024

Elegant Holy Quran museum is Thailand’s Best Kept Secret

Narathiwat Province, South Thailand — It is arguably Thailand’s best kept secret. Muslim visitors to Thailand will be fascinated by the collection of magnificent Holy Qurans and historic artefacts exhibited in the Museum of Islamic Cultural Heritage and Al-Quran Learning Centre in Narathiwat, the country’s southernmost province, about 1,140 kilometres from Bangkok on the border with Malaysia.

Ambassadors and diplomats from Egypt, Nigeria, Brunei, the Maldives, Iran, Indonesia and Uzbekistan along with Thailand’s Ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Türkiye and UAE visited this Centre as part of a famiiarisation trip to the Southern Border Provinces (SBP) organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 11-13 June. Formerly located in small, privately-owned family premises, the collection of the Islamic holy books has been relocated to a gleaming new building funded by the Fine Arts Department and Narathiwat Province.

Thailand is the world’s only Buddhist-majority country to boast such a museum. Other museums in ASEAN with exhibits of historic Holy Qurans include the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM), the Malacca Al-Quran Museum, the Museum Al-Quran in Aceh, Indonesia, and the Islamic Art and Calligraphy Study Center in Brunei Darussalaam.

Thailand is promoting tourism to the Southern Border Provinces as part of a revamped hearts-and-minds strategy to bring peace to the geopolitically and geographically strategically located region, the bridgehead for trade and transport between the Buddhist-majority countries in northern ASEAN and the Muslim-majority countries of southern ASEAN.

Due to years of civil unrest caused by socio-cultural and religious tensions, Narathiwat and the other border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Satun have failed to attract business and rank low on Thailand’s economic development index. As a result, much of the young population has migrated to provinces such as Phuket and Phang-nga to seek jobs in the booming tourism industry.

The Thai government has now revamped its previously heavy-handed suppression tactics with a softer, more nuanced approach that fits in with the broader foreign policy to promote Thailand’s relations with the Islamic world and take advantage of the opportunities to promote exports of halal food products and attract Muslim visitors.

The Museum of Islamic Cultural Heritage and Al-Quran Learning Center is clearly an iconic hallmark of the government’s commitment to preserving Muslim heritage in the southern border provinces. The images below speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the museum does not rank highly on the list of places to visit in Narathiwat on the Tourism Authority of Thailand website. It does not show at all on a TripAdvisor list.

Narathiwat has daily flights from Bangkok by Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia. The other closest gateway is the international airport of Haad Yai, about three hours drive away.