September 5, 2009:
One of the techniques used by Thailand, to protect civilians in the three majority Moslem provinces, from local Islamic terror attacks, was to form village militias. There are currently nearly 50,000 of these militiamen. This force has doubled in the past five years.
The militias are creating by selecting 30 volunteers from each village, giving them three days of training (conducted by soldiers), and arming them with fifteen shotguns. Each militia establishes a pattern of patrols and guard posts, to keep Islamic terrorists away, or to spot the terrorists operating in the area (and report that to the security forces.)
Over 1,500 villages are now guarded by these militias. Priority was given to villages with a largely Buddhist (about 20 percent of the two million people in those three provinces) population. A major goal of the Islamic terrorists is to force the Buddhists out of the three provinces. The Islamic terrorists want to then drive the Thai government out of the three provinces and establish an Islamic republic. A majority of the Moslems in the three provinces oppose this, although they would like to obtain more autonomy, and financial support, from the majority Thai (and Buddhist) government.
The government is working towards expanding the village force to over 100,000 this year. This will be done by expanding the force in each village to 50 volunteers, provide more training and establish militias in more villages.
There are problems. The militias can use their own weapons, and purchase additional ones (pistols, rifles, and even automatic weapons) with their own money. This has caused a problem with Buddhist vigilantes forming death squads and carrying out illegal attacks against Moslems in general. One of the Buddhist militias, called "Thai United", has 8,000 members (including several hundred Moslems). Many southern Buddhists are quite terrified. The Islamic terror attacks have been often brutal, including killing children and beheading Buddhist priests. Buddhist school teachers have been a common target, as the Islamic terrorists want to shut down non-religious schools. Most southerners want the schools to stay open.
The militias have kept the Islamic terrorists out of a lot of villages, where they would either receive, or simply take, food and other supplies. But now the police and army have a growing problem with the vengeful Buddhist militiamen killing neighboring Moslem villagers whenever the terrorists kill a Buddhist. If the security forces cannot contain this violence, they risk seeing their militiamen (most of whom are Moslem) using their weapons for a widespread civil war. Solutions often create more problems.