Men who are trained to fight the impossible are scared of peace

Celebration of Eid al-Fitr, or known as "Hari Raya Aidilfitri" by Malaysians, was welcomed back home among the dense plantations, despite the thick patches of ferns, imposing palm oil trees and wild monkeys. Yet now back in the complicated urban networks of streets, alleys and pavements, I've returned to Bangkok. One week in Malaysia has enabled me to reach almost a state of equilibrium, the refreshment of body and mind.
Bangkok Thailand
In Bangkok, a friend Rani nudges me to pour coffee, a small tin pot of sweet black brew that many southern Thais love so much. She's back from Suan Plu wet market, almost immune to the rapid-changing humidity of the city and barely perspires. She's 27 years old, a flowery purple hijab over her head, armed with that eye-catching smile, someone I got to know well within four months. Meeting her at the corner of the market, at her uncle's flat, bearing sweet treats and news from Malaysia brought about a cheerful appearance, that delightful beaming face.

The celebrative mood wasn't as much in Thailand for her though. One can't hide from the raging violence in the ThaiSouth, or shy away from the emotional effects of carnage all the way from the south. Rani has been working in Bangkok for nearly 3 years, and intends to stay away from strife, from the bloodshed for as long as she can.

Rani Asmah, hails from a violence-spewing province called Yala. She earns an average of 250 baht per day at the market, despite the labourous work, she's not interested to return back to her kampung (village), the violence has crippled her future to live with her parents and work in the land of her birth. She believes in a future, she does want to fall in love, get married, and Inshallah (God willing) have at least 3 children. Though at this point, and perhaps for a very long time, just not back in the kampung.

We spoke at length about the Imam who, while travelling with his family, was shot at point-blank and murdered by militants. He was killed in early August, and was known by folks in the ThaiSouth as a strong advocate for peace and was a religious teacher in Pattani's Central Mosque.

She's a firm believer that militants are adamantly spreading fear, a campaign of terror, supposedly for the furtherance of the Muslim community. This conflict has robbed over 5,000 lives in the south and the body count continues to pile.

Absentmindedly she pushes a small circle of hair into the protective cover of her headscarf, and smiles sadly. She hates to be reminded of troubled times, yet I know she like many cannot escape the realities.

"Will the violence end, Rani?" I ask, as I light my kretek and shifting my left cramped leg to ease the circulation.

"I don't think in my life time, Abang." was her answer, her eyes drawn to the pot of coffee, lost in shaded memories perhaps. ["Abang" means "older brother" in the Melayu language]

"Why?" I ask, curious on the effects of a single word that I've been known to indiscriminately utter.

"Because when men are trained to fight the impossible, ready to spill blood of their own people, then the cycle of violence will never end. These killers are scared of peace, they live for that moment of being in control." Rani says, her fingers gripping her cup, though she make no attempt to drink.

I left hours later, her words burning in my mind.

Determination. I seek to be part of anything that stops the slaughter, to stop this slow process of extinction. I am, in fact, more than determined.

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