Shattered by horrific events
Published on April 29, 2006 - On the second anniversary of the bloody Krue Se Mosque incident, a community in Songkhla voices their disappointment and bitterness
Trying to come to terms with the tragic event two years ago today when 19 of their young men were gunned down, residents of this remote district in Songkhla province express sorrow, bitterness and disappointment over the lack of moral support at a time when they need it most.
Shattered by a chain of horrific events that ended in the death of at least 106 young men at the hands of government security forces, residents say they feel outsiders have largely disregarded the incident and that few care to understand - mostly they are just indifferent.
"District officials come by every now and then and people from the National Reconciliation Commis-sion (NRC) came to collect some information. That's all," said Udom Maepromi whose son, Maruding, was gunned down in questionable circumstances that eyewitnesses said could have been avoided.
Most of the men were believed to have been shot at close range - execution style.
The 19 young men, who formed a local soccer team for this district, were part of a network of more than 100 militants who carried out attacks against 10 police outposts across Pattani, Yala and Songkhla provinces on April 28, 2004.
For reasons still yet to be fully understood, these young men had armed themselves with not much more than knives and machetes and launched simultaneous attacks against heavily armed police. Outnumbered and outgunned, most were shot. A few escaped. At least 106 eventually died. Not wanting to see that their children had fallen in vain most, if not all, were buried as martyrs, in accordance with Islamic tradition.
Much of the spotlight on that day was focused on the historic Krue Se Mosque where 32 insurgents retreated after attacking local police outposts.
The seven hour stand-off ended when General Pallop Pinmanee, the most senior Army commander on the scene, ordered an all out assault on the mosque for fear that the militants, who were using loud speakers, would succeeded in arousing local villagers to attack the security forces.
What caused these young men to charge into a certain death remains a mystery for both local residents and state agencies. But when the dust settled, it became apparent that they went there to die. They wanted to be heard and gave up their lives willingly in pursuit of this objective.
But the pain and sorrow was clearly visibly in the faces of the relatives of the 19 yesterday. They gathered at the village cemetery to bid farewell, again, to their loved ones whom Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had conveniently dismissed as a bunch of "drug-crazed teenagers" caught up in some fanatical teachings.
Thaksin never explained how well over 100 supposedly doped-up young men had woken before dawn, prayed, meditated, sipped holy water and smeared themselves with holy oil - all common practices in Southeast Asia's Islamic folklore - and then launched simultaneous attacks in the three provinces.
It has been a very lonely two years, said the local kamnan, Manat Wani, who yesterday organised a pot-luck raffle for the local community in order to make themselves feel as normal as possible. Life goes on, he added.
In what was another attempt at normalcy, local young men have formed a new soccer club. They, too, attended yesterday's events to commemorate the tragedy.
But two years later officials and analysts continue to debate just why these young men marched willingly to a certain death.
An organisational manual, "Ber Jihad di Patani" (The Liberation of Pattani), found on several bodies of the militants does provide some clues. The booklet was essentially to motivate the militants and called on them to rise up against the Thai state and liberate the Malay region from the "foreign occupiers".
Experts said it contained no theology - and yet some government officials went as far as calling it "the new Koran".