Untamed, the devastating savagery. Another forgotten murderous campaign. A broken South Thailand – Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala.
I am still in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, the bustling mega city of ultra capitalism, seesawing with the poor and the marginalized; seeing no end to their misery. Such momentum is stimulated by the reactions of a dramatic power play between a government that had won the elections without the help of the military, and a dwindling elitist opposition.
Politics influence the lives of the poor. Yet many in Bangkok seem undisturbed by the gnawing display of force in South Thailand unless you read the local biased journalism shown of an alleged outcome of Thailand’s war on drugs. But then again, the urban poor in this city have their own class-struggles, wading in the cesspool of a challenging economy, and ever-present destitution to overcome. Many have a strenuous life to lead… just like many in the southern provinces.
Today, it has been an unpredictable day for me in the slums. The travelling, meeting people, talking and exchanging views, conducting informal life-skills training for streetkids, and so forth, a physically-taxing episode with very little rest – Truly in need of a mental-break, freedom from the traffic disturbance and the smog. But I have been severely distracted by the weekly violence in the south. A remembrance of my past, the old tour-of-duty in relief work in far-flung countries. I was tempted to travel to the south, to seek, see and sensitize myself on the concerns of the forgotten people. Juggling responsibilities and an extremely tight budget is never easy, and so the thoughts of going south faded away… for now.
Thailand’s far south, which borders with Malaysia, is a complex spoiled pie of economical decline, religious intolerance, the endless flow of weaponry and an ever-increasing distrust between Muslims and Buddhists who treat the land as their home. They live in an environment which regenerates almost-daily violence of bloodied machetes, assault rifles and explosives. It never ends, nor would it in the near future. On the other side of the border, Malaysians show no sustainable interest in their neighbor’s predicament of terror — it is after all the ASEAN-way of non-interference or speaking ill about other countries in the region, which is what people would say “bad manners” — and then again, apathy to humanity’s path of extinction seems to leave a distasteful sensation on the minds of South East Asians, thus better left ‘ignored’ or focused on the daily hi-society lifestyle. Something more easily digestible to a growing redundant society. Not my delusional belief, merely a fact of a collation of societies living in constant denial.
But I guess such external behaviors does not stop nor influence the violence. Government troops are slaughtered, extremists are butchered, bandits caught, interrogated and imprisoned, civilians lose their lives, and children living in constant utter fear. Such endless cycle of carnage, it rolls, a Juggernaut, leaving a bloodied mark on the terrain, whether in the towns, isolated villages or rubber plantations.
I managed to find several southern Thais working in the slums, struck a candid conversation with waving hands and animated looks. Over hot, sweet coffee and stale cigarettes, after the evening’s break of fast in this month of Ramadan, we continued the discussion in the thickly-laced northern “Malay” language.
Many in the south have a long history of perceived injustices of what previous governments have inflicted upon them. Passions flared, my companions are incensed at the establishment’s lack of respect for their way of life and the growing need for self-governance. Yellows, Reds, the brain-draining politics of the day, are visible in the lives of the south, yet in many of these provinces the Yellows have their power base entrenched for a very long time. But then again, what’s important is what is the present government doing to manage the human rights concerns and the need for self-determination? Someone said he felt that the south is merely an exercise field for the military, though he and his companions do not deny the existent of multi-faceted militant groups working against each other – somewhat caught in a fascinating orgy of fascism and destruction.
Is peace forgotten or neglected, I asked. Another man laughed and said it was more likely neglected as many living outside of the south do not want to know about the issues, nor do people care. The conversation led nowhere, not that I had expected results from this initial meeting. I sought another opportunity, another night, as my adrenaline seem depleted for the evening.
As I walked back to my apartment, dodging rushing vehicles steered by crazed drivers, I thought of the uncontrollable element of human nature, that addictive desire to embrace the darkness in all of us. The barbarous element of being human, that after decades of resistance and violence, sometimes, maybe, we forget what we are fighting for. Sadly at the cost of human life. A disgusting abandonment of sanity and compassion.