In death, another side to insurgent Mahrosu is revealed

opinion February 15, 2013 00:00

By Don Pathan
The Nation

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Mahrosu Jantarawadee's parents had to wait for four hours before Narathiwat Hospital would release his body because the commander of the Fourth Army Area and other VIPs wanted to see what the 31-year-old man looked like.

Mahrosu was one of the 16 insurgents killed in Wednesday morning’s gunfight between heavily armed militants and members of the Royal Thai Marines in Bacho district. About 50 insurgents had walked into a trap. Officials say they had prior knowledge about the planned attack.

To the authorities, Marohso was a fierce militant, a misguided young man they say was caught up in an armed movement that embraces distorted history and false teaching of Islam. He had more than 10 warrants out for his arrest and had been on the run for the past five years.
But to his family and neighbours, he was a responsible person who cared deeply for his wife and children. 
“He made sure that our children and I live comfortably. He built this house from the money he made from buying and selling cattle,” said Rusanee, 25, the mother of Mahrosu’s six-year-old girl and a 17-month boy.
“He bought our daughter a computer tablet and talked about how he would like to see her grown up as an educated woman, religiously pious and possibly go abroad to study,” Rusanee said.
“There was this one time that they wanted him to surrender so bad that they took his younger brother into custody thinking that it would get him to surrender,” his mother said.
Marohso’s funeral drew a huge crowd and was somewhat emotional. Young and old men queued up in an orderly column to pass his body, wrapped in white sheet. In the background there was a constant chant of “Allah Akbar” (God is great). 
In spite of the high number of troops in the region, Mahrosu and others on the wanted list move around somewhat freely, mainly because the local community will not turn them in. 
Authorities say the villagers are scared of the insurgents but residents say the militants are part of the community. Like the insurgents, they share some of the same sentiments and historical mistrust of the Thai state.
Che Mah Che Ni, 52, said her son’s life changed dramatically after the Tak Bai massacre in 2004 that ended in the death of 86 unarmed demonstrators, most of whom died of suffocation.
“He was one of the guys they stacked one on top another in the back of the military truck,” Che Mah said.
The massacre, in which no government officials were punished, has radicalised an entire generation of Malay Muslims in an already highly contested region and become part of the local narrative that feeds into the justification for taking up arms in the separatist movement. 
A couple of years after the Tak Bai incident, Mahrosu and Rusanee got married. Rusanee said she knew exactly what she was getting into and understood the risks. 
The two tried living and working in Malaysia but returned when they were expecting their first child. 
Back in Bacho, Mahrosu picked up from where he had left off.
When asked about his insurrection activities, Rusanee replied: “Everybody knows what this is all about.”
Mahrosu visited his wife and children three times this past month and made a phone call to his wife before his outfit raided the marine unit just a few kilometres from his village. 
“He said he would be home soon and not to worry,” Rusanee said.
Mahrosu did come home as he said, but in a body bag. He was buried as a “shahid”, or martyr in Islamic tradition. 
“This was something he always wanted,” said Rusanee, who is proud of her husband and is grateful for the things he provided. She said she has no regrets.
In a way, Mahrosu’s death was a blessing in disguise. At least, said the wife, there is no longer any worry about him being caught alive. “He was certain he would be tortured severely if they had got him alive,” she said.