Just how are young men like Asaha Dajing recruited? Is it really a matter of their being “fooled”? Or are they shown convincing passages of the Qur’an and Sunnah that show that they should do what the radicals are doing if they want to be good Muslims? From USA Today, with thanks to Ali Dashti:
Asaha Dajing, 19, appeared to be thriving at an Islamic college in Yala, 20 miles north of this remote village. He had just won a $125 creative writing scholarship, big money in these parts. His family was proud.
But Asaha had friends his parents didn’t know about: Islamic radicals who were recruiting impressionable young men for a mysterious holy war here in the jungles of southern Thailand.
Asaha’s secret life was exposed only by his death. He was killed by police along with 13 other militants April 28 when they staged a suicidal assault on a government office near this village. Most were armed only with machetes.
“They used my son because he was young,” says his father, rubber farmer Tama Dajing, 49. “He could be fooled very easily. … I blame myself because I just worked. I went out in the morning and I came home at night, and I didn’t know what was going on.”
No one seems to know exactly what is going on here in the predominantly Muslim southern tip of Thailand. Mysterious insurgents are terrorizing the countryside, bewildering the government in Bangkok and raising fears that radical Islamic groups from outside Thailand may have found a new base in Southeast Asia.
“It’s still a witch’s brew. It’s still incubating,” says Paul Quaglia, a former CIA official now working as a security consultant in Bangkok with Pacific Strategies & Assessments. “Regional Islamic terrorists are looking at the area for a possible jihad (holy war). Disgruntled Muslim youth form a potential labor pool” for terrorists.
Southeast Asia already is seething with Islamic violence. The group Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been linked to al-Qaeda, was behind bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002. A group called Abu Sayyaf has terrorized the traditionally Muslim region of Mindanao in the southern Philippines for several years, kidnapping tourists and attacking local Christians. Authorities fear that extremists also want to use the lawless jungles of southern Thailand to launch a holy war.
The United States has not turned southern Thailand into a new front in the war on terror and considers the insurgency an internal Thai matter. No Thai insurgent groups appear on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. However, there is some evidence that Jemaah Islamiyah, which is on the U.S. terror list, has been active in Thailand. One of the group’s leaders was captured in central Thailand last year, and some of the attackers in a wave of violence April 28 reportedly wore Jemaah Islamiyah T-shirts and in some cases showed knowledge of sophisticated military tactics.
The fact that the United States doesn’t see the Thailand conflict as the same conflict that is raging in Iraq, Israel, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and elsewhere in the world today is evidence of an analytic myopia that could prove fatal.