The Muslim insurgency in Southern Thailand has initially been fought because of the desire of most Muslim to gain independence from Thailand. Along the way, Thailand implied that Malaysia is supporting the Muslim insurgents, which it denied. Malaysia has since tried to broker talks between various Muslim groups and the Thai government to come up with a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The recent conflict started in 2001 and recently no group has ever claimed responsibility on the sporadic attacks on Muslim and Buddhist civilians and military in the South, which have become deadlier than previous ones. Thailand is faced with a hard nut to crack as opposed to the Philippine Muslim Insurgency where there is a defined group with a definite purpose.
Many people have contributed their two cents analysis as to the roots of the Muslim insurgency in Southern Thailand but the attacks have continued and with no signs of stopping–as to what purpose, nobody still has any idea. However, these incidences have succeeded in dividing public opinion in Southern Thailand, sometimes pitting Buddhist against Muslim (one incident when Muslim suspects were arrested).
Here’s a rare look at the mind of a confessed Thai Muslim militant, who was recently arrested.
Inspired by Mideast jihadists, local militants add beheadings to arsenal
Story by AMBIKA AHUJA (From the Bangkok Post, printed last 4 June 2007, page 1)
It took two days for the young Muslim assassin to calm his nerves before the slaying. Then, Mohama Waekaji says, he walked to a rice mill, carrying a knife and following orders from a guerrilla commander to behead the 72-yearold Buddhist owner.
He asked the elderly man, Juan Kaewtongprakam, for some rice husks. As he turned to collect them, Mr Mohama says, he slashed the blade through the man?s neck.
“I didn’t dare to disobey,” the 23-year-old said in an interview with the Associated Press the first time a Thai militant accused of a beheading is thought to have spoken to the Western media. “I knew they would come after me if I did not do what I was told.”
The killing in February was one in a spate of beheadings in Thailand that has fuelled fears that the brutal terrorist tactics of the Middle East are spreading in Asia.
Twenty-five beheadings ‘including 10 already this year’ have been reported in the South since an Islamic-inspired insurgency erupted in 2004.
“Beheadings are certainly on the rise outside of the Middle East proper,” said Timothy Furnish, professor of Middle Eastern history at Georgia Perimeter College. “These groups do take their cues from … hardcore Islamic thought coming out of the Arab world. Beheading infidels not only shocks, but also demonstrates Islamic bona fides to other groups.”
The authorities say jihad videos from the Middle East, captured from rebel training camps, may be inspiring young men like Mr Mohama. One clip said to have come from Iraq shows a woman lying on her side on a patch of grass as a man slowly cuts her throat with a knife. Blood spurts from the wound, the screaming finally stops and her head is completely severed.
“The inspiration is clearly coming across the internet or through DVD clips,” said Zachary Abuza, an expert on terrorism in Southeast Asia at Simmons College in Boston. “Islamist militants in Southeast Asia are frustrated that the region is considered the Islamic periphery.”
“Militants of the region are actively trying to pull the region into the Islamic core. They want people to understand that their jihad is a part of the global jihad.”
Mr Mohama’s account of his journey ‘from a quiet, average student to a confessed killer’ offers insights into how young Muslims fall under the influence of militant Islam.
He was attending a private Islamic school in Pattani when a school friend persuaded him to join a religious event at a mosque. There, “ustad,” or teachers, told him about an organisation to liberate southern Thailand, asking him to take an oath to become a servant of Allah, obey the teachers and take the secrets of the organisation to his grave.
Although confused and with little knowledge of politics, he took the oath and began secret training at age 19. His teachers stressed the sufferings of Palestinian Muslims and those in Afghanistan and Thailand, where many Muslims feel they are secondclass citizens in a Buddhist-dominated land.
The teachers talked about the Tak Bai tragedy of 2004 when security forces confronted Muslim protesters, resulting in the deaths of 85.
“I was shaken when I heard the story. I did hate them, those who did this to us Muslims,” Mr Mohama said at the prison in Pattani’s tambon Na Pradu.
During rigorous training, he learned how to do knuckle push-ups, wield knives, swords and guns and how to take a life by squeezing an opponent?s Adam?s apple with his hands or breaking a victim’s neck.
After two years, he was sent out to burn tyres and spread nails on roads to puncture tyres and distract police before attacks staged by his comrades.
“They recruit responsible, tightlipped and trouble-free teenagers … people who can carry out orders and who don’t attract attention to themselves,?? said Col Shinawat Mandej. When the order came to slay the mill owner ‘a person he had seen but didn’t know’ Mr Mohama said he was frightened, both by the orders and what his leaders would do to him if he failed.
Police found the man?s headless body at the rice mill and his head in a nearby field. Mr Mohama was arrested and charged with the killing two months later.
“It was too late to want out,” he said, his eyes closed and his head downcast. “It was either me or him.”