Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Thai Monks Go South

Hundreds of Buddhist monks to spend Buddhist Lent in violence-wrecked southern Thailand

Hundreds of yellow-robed Buddhist monks arrived in Muslim-dominated southern Thailand on Wednesday at the start of Buddhist Lent in the hope their presence will promote peace in the insurgency-wracked region.

Buddhist Lent — a three-month period — marks the beginning of the rainy season in Thailand, a time when villagers present offerings of food and flowers to monks who must remain on temple grounds. The age-old practice is traditionally to prevent them from trampling new plants and insects.

"The 346 monks will spend this time in various temples in the area to boost morale among the Buddhist population there and to bring a message of peace to a place torn apart by the insurgency," said Air Force Commander Chalit Pukbhasuk who saw the monks off from Bangkok.

The monks traveled by air force plane to the south and will be spending their time at temples in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, Thailand's three southernmost provinces where 2,300 have been killed since an Islamic insurgency flared in January 2004.

Bombings and drive-by shootings are a near-daily occurrence in the region, and while initially Buddhists were the main targets, Muslims are also coming under attack.

The "hearts and minds" thing that has been tried for the last while has come under a great deal of scoffing from those far away. In actual fact it seems to be working. The local Thai Muslims are increasingly put off at the violence and the pointlessness of it. They are helping the Police find both weapons and culprits and not helping the so called "separatists".

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