Now All Is Silence

On the day of the full moon Buddhists gathered to celebrate Visakha Bucha, the day of the year on which the Lord Buddha was born, became enlightened and passed away. They gather, as I did last year, to hold incense sticks, lotus bud and a lit candle and promenade around a temple’s ordination hall thrice. But in Wat Suan Kaew in Thailand’s south, this didn’t happen this year. The last two monks had been blown up by a terrorist bomb the day before as they made their alms round, padding bare foot, heads bowed, humbly accepting the food offered by the villagers.

Monks are an easy target. Despite having an armed guard, they are defenceless against 20 kg of explosive buried under the road. What defence is a begging bowl and a saffron robe? Also defenceless are rubber tappers, working alone in the forest, who are routinely targeted and beheaded. Teachers, policemen and soldiers, however, are more usually blown up or shot.

Though the perpetrators are oft described as Islamic terrorists that is far too easy a label. Yes, they are followers of The Religion of Peace, and yes their numbers include jihadis imported from places such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and yes, they want an independent Moslem state covering the four southernmost provinces of Thailand, and eventually a universal caliphate. However, their 4,000 and counting victims include both Buddhists and Moslems in roughly equal numbers. The terrorists seemingly have no spokesman, no manifesto. They seem solely to thrive on creating fear and division between neighbours, Buddhist and Moslem. One wonders what the role of foreign countries is in all this? Are these terrorists in it for the filthy lucre they receive from abroad to sue their holy war? Who knows?

But for now, the last two monks are dead, and all now is silence.

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