Muslim Soldiers to weave the state and villagers’ relations
At the Muslim-majority southernmost of Thailand, the villagers have Malay as their mother tongue and could preserve their own cultural heritage and sense of identity.
Over the past half a decade, during the restive climate, the troops have continually moved into this region. To constitute trustworthiness and then collaborations from the villagers, soldiers and the police should have great respect to the value of local admired norms wholeheartedly.
While entirely understanding the deep South residents needs enormous time and efforts, Muslim soldiers and policemen have been required as “the facilitators” to ease the way for harmonious race relations. Due to their Malay language usage, they have been embraced and trusted by the ethnic Malays that lead to more smoothly resolve ongoing conflicts.
Sergeant Abdul Masengbangi, a 25 – year – old Yala soldier, came back to this hometown three years ago during versatile environment. Today he has mainly taken charge of a driver based in 12th Yara Special Task Force overseeing Raman District, Yala Province.
Sgt. Abdul started his career path as a conscript and was then promoted to be a sergeant because of his extra skill in “Thai-Malay interpreting” that benefits other non-Malay speaking acquaintances. Beforehand, he worked for Suriyothai camp located at Hua Hin District, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province and then moved to 11th Yala Special Task Force overseeing Krong Pinang District where Buddhist soldiers from Chumphon and Ranong Provinces were in the service.
“Actually my official entitle is mechanic but have to work as a driver for a superior because I’m Muslim being well accustomed to local routes,” said Sgt. Abdul.
As a driver, not only driving is his duty but it also covers photographing, car fixing, and particularly interpreting he seems proud of to do so.
Even a Muslim inhabitant he is, to complete his task, he still needs several tactics to practice.
“When I meet the villagers, I always give Salam greeting to signal them I’m also Muslim. Approaching with sincerity could let them know we won’t do harm. So far we, I and my superior, have to reach every restive event taking place in any sub-district in Raman District.”
He also accepted that working well in this sensitive region is not just a piece of cake. As it is impossible to know everybody well, the most vital technique is that he has to try to read people’s minds thoroughly.
“We have to notice any interactions and read their minds deeply. As growing up here, it’s not too difficult to recognize the clue of their reactions. When a person attempts to shoot us, for instance, the anxiety leads his face to turn pale. By the way, after getting a hint of insurgency, suspects always have room to defend themselves and could go back home without anything to worry about. Nowadays, the villagers seemingly understand the officials better,” said him.
Sgt. Abdul seems to be proud of his task that he, as Muslim, could help other Buddhist soldiers communicate more clearly to the locals and they then mutually understand each other.
“Becoming a soldier is what I fond of because it help me be able to resolve the villagers’ restiveness. If we were asked how to bring peacefulness into this region, we have to ask them for their trust on us as well. Without hatred but trust and collaborations, we could willingly promise to make a concerted effort to bring about reconciliation,” stated Sgt. Abdul with the great hope that peacefulness could be soon restored.
In addition to the case of Sgt. Abdul as a local Muslim soldier, there have also been several Muslim soldiers from other provinces volunteering to work in the southernmost provinces. Take “Armud” Sub-lieutenant Navy Mhadla working for 404th Special Forces Team, 954th Control Team, Santisuk Ad Hoc Unit overcoming Su-gnai Padi District, Narrathiwat Province as an example.
He is Muslim growing up in Khlong Sam Wa District, Bangkok and becomes a soldier right after graduation from military school. At that time, Sub-Lt. Navy was promoted to be an officer’s commission before rotated into several provinces across country where he had lived his life in fighting. This tough experience encourages him to volunteer to be “a peacekeeping soldier” in the deep South.
As only one Muslim soldier in the camp, his different religion has never irritated his relationship with other colleagues but could help expedite and support their tasks instead. That is, Muslim residents seem to believe in and more willingly to communicate with the soldiers. Just several months after coming here, he gains a tender embrace from the locals, Dato, and community leaders.
“I’m Muslim so I get their ways of lives in which I don’t have to attune myself. When arriving here, I greet them with Salam first and they then would ask whether I’m Muslim or not. This helps us to start knowing each other well and more easily. I also try to learn more about Yawi language (Malay dialect).”
The ethnic Malays usually invite me to their activities or meetings that help me know more people. Until now our camp and the locals conduct several projects regarding religion teaching and community services like fence painting run together by Buddhist and Muslim elders of the village,” said Sub-Lt Navy
Bann Talingsoong, a peaceful village in the main responsibility of Sub-Lt Navy’s camp could reflect the impact of locals’ strong collaborations that help lessen insurgency apparently.
Cidi Nima, Member of Talingsoong Subdistrict Administration Organization, pointed out when Sub-Lt Navy approaches the villagers; he usually informs the details of his plan in advance. His good manner could raise both Buddhist and Muslim villagers’ participations.
“We’ve long lived here peacefully. Some trivial conflicts might occur as usual even in the entire Muslim society. In my opinion, if we don’t do harm but care each other, the peacefulness could be certainly restored,” stated Cidi.
Not only Muslim soldiers as “facilitators” do ease the conflicts, but all of us with sincerity, fairness, and respectfulness to others could take such essential role as well.