YALA, Thailand, Sep 18 (IPS) - With an insurgency threatening to worsen, Thailand’s military is turning to civilians like Nipa Waya to return fire in the three southern provinces close to the Malaysian border.
Nipa, a single mother, maintains a vigil through the night armed with a shotgun at the entrance to a Buddhist village on the outskirts of this southern city. With her, on a recent night, were 15 other men and women, similarly armed, who are part of a civilian-defence force.
"We move around to other checkpoints through the night," says the 43-year-old Nipa, holding a weapon that is almost as tall as her. "I want to help the people from being attacked by the insurgents."
"I feel brave with this gun," adds Nipa, who, till she started this nightshift near an abandoned building two years ago, had neither held nor used a gun. "We got seven days training where we learnt to shoot. We also had physical training, like jumping from towers."
Nipa, a Thai Buddhist, welcomes the move by the Thai military to recruit civilians to combat the shadowy network of Malay Muslim insurgents responsible for the violence that has erupted since early 2004 in the southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.
The violence in the south, which has seen over 3,400 deaths during the past five and a half years, is testing the limits of the relationship between Thai Buddhists, who are the majority in this country, and the country’s largest minority, the Malay Muslims, who are the dominant community in the three insurgency-torn provinces.
It is from this pool of Thai Buddhists and Malay Muslims that the army is recruiting civilians to be part of a network of an armed civilian force. The groups that they belong to have names like ‘Village Protection Volunteers’ and ‘Iron Lady Unit’.
Researchers estimate that over 30,000 civilians have been trained to shoot to help the armed forces, whose current troop strength, according to unofficial estimates, is close to 60,000 in the south. The Volunteer Defence Corps, for instance, is armed with the U.S.-made M-16 and the German-made HK-33 assault rifles. ...
Read the article here. Naturally, the anti-gunners are up in arms, so to speak, blathering on about guns in the hands of ordinary folks making the situation worse, etc., etc. Same anti-gun crap, different country.