Songai Kolok, 13-02-2009.
Songai Kolok is supposed to be the heart of muslim territory in Thailand, within walking distance to the Malay border and - as rumour has it - the place of origin of the masterminds behind the Islam uprising in Southern Thailand. Basically this small and claustrophobic town houses a hotbed of islamic fanatics that are bend on total independence, create an Islam state in Buddhist Thailand, no matter what the cost!!! Blow up a police station, roadside killings or maybe a mortar attack on a public school...all that in the name of Allah, never mind the innocent, unschooled local farmers whose main concern is trying to feed their families.
I spend most of the day changing Song-Thaews, looking from the glassless windows at an endless array of rice paddies, women working the rice paddies covered in long black dresses and muslim headscarves, constant police road blocks with camouflage clad soldiers entering the Song-Thaew, their black heavy military issued boots banging heavily on the metal floor, their big guns slung around their shoulders looking menacingly, checking papers of passengers.
The always festive air that rules King Bhumipol`s Kingdom and for so many Farang the main reason for falling in love with this mystic Asian kingdom, GONE!!! Instead I sense a strange mixture of hate and fear at the same time.
We pass small dusty village where I can hear the call of the muezzins coming from hidden mosques, quick stops for food hawkers trying to sell vegetables and bottles of mineral water, other passengers getting on, getting off, men with skullcaps and thin grayish beards covering their chins look at me in a non-commital way, gone are the friendly Thai smiles beaming from friendly and open faces, gone is the gay and colorfull Thai dress code. I feel like I have been parachuted into a hostile and non-Farang friendly dictator ruled state of fear!!!
I try to concentrate on what goes on outside the closed confinement of this sweltering hot local bus where the oppression of angst has providence over the ever importance of the concept of Sanuk in the Thai Buddhist mind, a lone dark black buffalo with strangely shaped horns relaxing in a mud pool and looking at me with what seem warning eyes... a warning from Lord Buddha himself??? Near naked kids dressed only in their underwear playing in a river, pointing brownish little fingers at me excitedly...more warnings involved here???
A serious young Thai male reading an Arabic Koran a few seat ahead of me, skullcap in place, long pale pastel blue colored Djalleba covering his slender frame, long single black hairs prodruding from a thin chin betraying a serious effort of growing the necessary muslim beard in a race where bodily hair is sparse, his dark brown eyes looking up from his Holy Muslim book whenever the fancy strikes him, trying to lock them with mine...menacing...threatening....