January 2, 2007 2:07pm CST
Two weeks ago, the Thai police and military quelled a protest which ended in a riot in the Southern province of Thailand, just across the border from Malaysia. The local population is mainly Muslims and they have demonstrated publicly previously against their perception of discrimination on the basis of religion. They are Muslims in a predominantly Buddhists country. The operation ended with gun fire from the armed forces, leaving 6 demonstrators dead and over a thousand arrested. By the way no violent force or guns were used by the demonstrators. Those arrested were all healthy young men, stripped to the waist and with their hands cuffed with plastic binders behind their backs. These young men were thrown into army trucks on a journey which takes up to 6 hours north to a military detention centre. The detained were packed like sardine, ending with bodies 6 layers high lying down. Of course a disaster ensued , in which 80 of the otherwise healthy young men were suffocated to death. It was a tragic and slow asphyxiation. This piece of news is scarcely reported in the world media. Two weeks of thunderous silence has ensued during which the world's conscience seems to have taken a holiday. Where are all the voices of protests; against inhumanity and state sponsored terrorism? The silence is eerie. The former deputy prime minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim has at last spoken up. He condemns the episode as unacceptable behaviour and calls for an explanation by the Thal authorities. He sees this as a continued discrimination against the Muslims in Southern Thailand. All men and women of conscience should dissect and discuss this potentially explosive issue. One could see a new arena for religious fundamentalism to take root and thrive if this is not resolved satisfactorily.