Ramadan has begun in Islamic communities worldwide, and the next month presents a challenge and opportunity in the restive deep South. Ramadan is the time when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The abstinence from food and water for half of each day brings a chance for reflection and compassion. The absence of a ceasefire in the South provides all the more reason for officials and troops to show restraint and stress the need for respect all around.
Two months ago, there was a chance for a first ever truce in the deep South. The Malaysian leader of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) had agreed in principle with the head of the government's peace talks delegation on a Ramadan ceasefire. But Hassan Taib, the BRN spokesman, imposed more conditions for the 30-day truce on top of what he had demanded for a complete end to the war for secession, and a formal ceasefire was impossible.
But prospects for a peaceful Ramadan still partly lie in the hands of security forces and government officials in the four southernmost provinces. Last week, the Chularatchamontri, the Muslim spiritual leader for all of Thailand, urged the military and police to take Ramadan into consideration when conducting their duties over the next four weeks. All security forces should bear in mind two things during the next month.
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