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Born in a Malay Thai Muslim community in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surin Abdul Halim bin Ismail Pitsuwan received his early education from his parents who were both teachers at Pondok Ban Tan, an Islamic educational institution established by his grandfather, Hj. Yaakob Abdul Rauf, a renowned Pattani scholar. Being raised in a strong traditional Islamic educational system, he was expected to inherit the pondok institution. But instead of choosing Islamic studies, he chose another path for the sake of ‘making a difference’. This decision stirred up dramatic reactions among his family. However, the undertaken path was never regretted, and Surin never forgot his humble beginning as a pondok student.