There are approximately five million Muslims in Thailand (7 percent of the total population), with about 1.8 million in the southernmost provinces bordering on Malaysia. A considerable literature in history, anthropology, political science, international relations, and religious studies has been produced since January 4, 2004, when a violent Muslim insurgency dramatically erupted in the area. At that time over 100 Muslim insurgents raided an arms depot of the Fourth Army Engineers in Narathiwat Province. On January 22, in south Thailand, two Muslim young men on a motorcycle used a long knife to slit the throat of a sixty-four-year-old Buddhist monk, killing him. The monk had just returned from his early morning round of tham bun (alms-collecting extending merit to Buddhist families).

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