Mouthwatering dishes entice onlookers into Nuriyah’s popular curry shop, the spicy aromas of freshly cooked, brightly colored curries filling the air in the deep south of Thailand.
Customers stop their motorbikes and cars by the sidewalk, waiting patiently in line to sample some of the town’s finest local cuisines. The wide variety of succulent dishes wouldn’t look out of place in any local Thai restaurant in Bangkok. But this is Pattani, which has infamously suffered from an ongoing conflict since 2004, which has claimed over 6,000 lives in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, the three southernmost provinces of Thailand.
Despite this, 51-year-old mother of two and owner of Kaya Curry Shop, Nuriyah Mahama seems unfazed, going about her daily life with the zest a young entrepreneur half her age would exult in.
Even with heavy rain she seems undeterred getting up at the crack of dawn, she climbs aboard a large motorbike sidecar, to get to the bustling local market to literally grab hold of the freshest ingredients for her homegrown secret recipes - much of which have just been caught from the nearby coastline.
Nuriyah is one of nearly 3,000 members who are part of one of the 33 local Community Savings Groups started by the Expanding Community Approaches in Conflict Situations (ECACS) of the Southern Thailand project. Since 2009, with the support of the World Bank, the project has helped to develop culturally appropriate approaches to local development that are creating opportunities for increased interaction among conflict-affected communities and between communities and the state.
Indeed, Nuriyah’s curry shop exemplifies the project through community-led development, which brings together different people to interact, helping to a small extent to build mutual trust, peace and development over a tasty bowl of curry.