Thailand: The Promised Land Goes To Hell

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September 21, 2007: The continued violence in the south is more an ethnic rebellion, than a religious one. The Malay Moslems in the south are culturally and linguistically different from the vast majority (over 90 percent) of Thais. Add to that the fact that the south is rural and poor, and you can see why the southern Moslems have always felt like outsiders. Then there's the criminal element. The smuggling gangs have always been one of the few employment options, and the outlaw angle added to the smuggler's popularity. In the past few years, some of the gangsters got religion, at the same time some local clergy turned radical. While there was wide appeal in the south for the terrorists, at first, the growing violence, and attacks on schools, turned off many Moslems. The terrorists were making big promises (a separate Moslem state, prosperity) that had little popular appeal. That's because the fine print indicated that the Moslem state idea came with Sharia (Islamic ) law and all the lifestyle restrictions that implied. Locals were particularly unhappy with the terror campaign to drive Buddhist teachers out of the south and shut down schools. Education was recognized as one way out of poverty, and the Islamic radicals wanted to shut down that option. So now, more and more of the violence is against Moslems who speak out against the terror, or are suspected to passing information to the police. The Islamic radicals have managed to divide the Moslem population, creating a low level civil war, lots of misery and not much else.

 

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