* Well, what we need now is more origami. Or wait: could it be that origami against jihad might not be such a great idea?
RAE POH, Thailand (AP) – The tea shop is abandoned. Rubber plantations stand untended. Soldiers constantly patrol the one-lane road leading into this Muslim village.
Rae Poh was once designated a Â«green zoneÂ» village, one of more than 1,600 such islands of peace amid the violence that has torn Thailand’s southern tip since a Muslim insurgency erupted four years ago. Then, on Jan. 14, insurgents ambushed an army patrol about a mile (2 kilometers) away, killing all eight soldiers and beheading one of them.
Now Rae Poh is a Â«red zoneÂ» _ one of some 320 loosely designated by the authorities as insurgent hotbeds and under virtual military siege.
Their number is up from 215 at the end of 2004, the first year of the insurgency _ a dramatic example of the failures of a government hearts-and-minds campaign to quell an uprising that has taken more than 2,900 lives.
The insurgency worsened as the government of Thaksin Shinawatra adopted an iron-fist policy. The military regime that overthrew him in 2006 tried a conciliatory approach, apologizing for Thaksin’s crackdown. But since December the violence has escalated. Now Thailand again has an elected government, and the insurgency is its big challenge.
The rebels have never made public their demands, but researchers who have spoken to them say they are seeking an independent Islamic state in the three southernmost provinces that were a Muslim sultanate until annexed by Buddhist-majority Thailand a century ago.
The new government describes the insurgency as a security problem that the military, with 40,000 troops and police in the south, can handle. But on the ground, 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the capital, Bangkok, a senior army officer says the military can’t resolve the crisis alone.
Â«We have managed to suppress the violence in a number of red zones but I acknowledge we still don’t have strong political or communications teams that work to create understanding with villagers after something like this happens,Â» said Lt. Gen. Veerachai Nakwanit, referring to the January ambush.
Â«Soldiers can provide security,Â» said Veerachai, who heads military operations in Rae Poh’s Narathiwat province. Â«But men in uniform can’t do much to win the trust of the people, especially when the other side is relying on religious leaders for its political work.
* Hmm. Perhaps getting rid of those ‘religious leaders’ might be a way to stem the ‘insurgency’, what say you?