Islam's bloody border with Thailand

The young father walked slowly down the road, his face expressionless, as a light rain fell. In his arms he held the lifeless body of his 11-month-old daughter, killed just hours before when the tea shop in his village was sprayed with automatic gunfire that left six people dead.

Fellow residents of the Muslim Damabuah Village in Thailand’sNarathiwat Province walked behind in silence, while men and women from the security forces lined the road clutching rifles.

A few minutes later, the infant was laid to rest in a shallow, muddy hole under a mangosteen tree in the village cemetery, beside the newly dug graves of two other victims of the tea shop shooting.

Infami Samoh’s death, a couple of hundred miles from the tourist playgrounds of Ko Samui and Phuket, was shocking only because of her age. The 11-month-old was one of the youngest of nearly 5,400 people who have been killed in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand in the past eight years.

More than 9,500 have been injured since 2004, when the long-festering grievances of the majority Muslim population in the region erupted into outright guerrilla war against the overwhelmingly Buddhist Thai state.

With more than 20 million visitors a year and tourism contributing an estimated six per cent of the country’s GDP, Thailand is fiercely protective of its reputation as the Land of Smiles. But the deep south is a different world, the beaches deserted, foreign visitors non-existent.

Instead, the area is under a form of emergency law that gives special powers to the 150,000 soldiers, police and local militias deployed in the region.

Military convoys rumble through the towns and villages, checkpoints dominate the roads, while mobile phones are frequently jammed to prevent the insurgents using them to set off bombs, 2,500 of which have been planted since 2004.

About 80 per cent of the 1.8 million people living in the provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala that border Malaysia in the south are ethnic Malay Muslims. They speak Malay as their first language and many want their own state, as the region once was hundreds of years ago.

“The land here was colonised by the Thais. In the past, we were a country, the Sultanate of Pattani. We want to take it back. We don’t want to be part of Thailand or Malaysia; we want to have our own country,” a senior representative of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), one of the two main insurgent groups, told The Daily Telegraph.

Now, appalling acts of violence such as the tea shop massacre have become commonplace in the region, as a relentless wave of revenge attacks by Buddhists and Muslims fuel the conflict.

Gruesome tit-for-tat killings occur daily, with victims gunned down or beheaded in the rubber plantations that dominate the local economy.

Buddhist monks are confined to their temples, able to leave only under armed guard lest they be attacked, while mosques are riddled with bullet holes after being targets.

There is more.

This war has been going on longer than the US war with Radical Islam.  The Muslims of this area don't play well with others.  My own experience with the Buddhists within Thailand was very positive.  They were pleasant people who welcomed visitors.  I should add that when I was in Dubai the Muslims who rule the UAE were also pleasant people.  I think the difference is that Muslims do not handle life under the rule of a religion other than their on very well.

I like Thailand very much.  Bangkok is a robust city with many attractions.  If you visit, it makes sense not to go into the part Muslims want to control.


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