Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Land of Smiles?

20 million visitors a year and tourism contribute an estimated six per cent of the Thailand's GDP. Thailand is the Land of Smiles. A couple of hundred miles from the tourist playgrounds of Ko Samui and Phuket in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand 5,400 people who have been killed in the past eight years. More than 9,500 have been injured since 2004. 2,500 of which have been planted since 2004. More than 150 Buddhist teachers have been murdered since 2004 while hundreds of schools have been burnt down. Five per cent of all global terrorist attacks between 2002 and 2009 occurred in Thailand. 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.

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. Along with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Koordinasi (BRN-C), the other main separatist group separatist militants are estimated at 12,500 to 15,000.

 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. Tit-for-tat killings occur daily. A tea shop in the muslim Damabuah Village in Thailand’s Narathiwat Provincehi was sprayed with automatic gunfire that left six people dead including a 11 month girl. A few hours afterwards, five Muslim gunmen walked into a school in Pattani Province and shot dead the Buddhist headmaster and a Buddhist teacher in front of their pupils.

Nationalisms are poisons.

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