As one who lives in Asia, and one who is old enough to remember the terrorism of the 1970’s, both communist and Islamic, I am bemused over the “Iraq is the problem” cliches of the US Press. Even talk of “a war of civilizations” that posit an angry Arab street (who of course only have access to government run media) who see the US in Iraq as a new crusade to be fought.

Yet in Asia, the Muslim based terror groups in Kashmir and in Mindanao have more to do with tribal autonomy than religion. What has brought them into players in the “war on terror” is the fact that violent fundamentalist preaching at mosques often funded by Saudi charities are exacerbating the hatred while sophisticated technology and terror inspiring attacks such as the local workers recently beheaded in the Philippines is being encouraged to be used not against police or the military, but against ordineary people just trying to make a living.

One of the most underreported terror groups seems to have appeared from no where, and seems to have made few demands. It is the local Islamic terror groups in the southern Thailand, who have killed 400 in the past six months and 2100 people in the last three years.

The sporadic terror attacks have burned down many schools, attacked local Buddhist temples, and terrorized the local Muslim population into silence. Indeed, the local Muslims are now worried that there will be violent retaliation for the attacks, and the result could be a million refugees to nearby Malaysia.

The Thai government has turned down help from the US in capturing these rebels with an unknown cause. (US and Aussie Special Forces have helped armies of Indonesia and the Philippines catch local insurgents by helping with sophisticated technology). The bad news is that those killing civilians are getting help. A report shows that, with the government blocking cellphones in some areas to prevent carbombs, that the insurgents have now acquired 40 remote controls similar to those used to unlock cars that can be used to set off bombs.

LIke the sophisticated bombs found recently in the Philippines, this suggests there is an Alqaeda connection, and that someone is supplying a lot of money to the group that seems to have made no demands and only goes around killing people.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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