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Witness
Recruitment Day
Young Malay Muslim men in southern Thailand are forced to sign up for the military draft.
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2011 13:56 GMT

Filmmaker: Orlando de Guzman
Co-producer: Mira Manickam

For over 100 years, Thailand has been engaged in a nation-building project within its borders. Its demands on its citizens are straightforward: loyalty to the king, the state, and Buddhism, the three pillars of Thai society.

But in a remote village called Dato in southern Thailand the population is Muslim, and the people's loyalties lie squarely with their Malay heritage.

Years of national assimilation have had little effect: the people there consider themselves Muslim first, and Malays second.

Partly as a result of its geographic isolation, the village of Dato has managed to stay disconnected from Thailand.

The village has also managed to keep its distance from the bloody conflict in the three southern provinces.

But every year in April, there is a powerful intrusion of the Thai state and its nation-building programme. Every village male who has turned 21 must report to the nearest army recruitment center, and sign up for the military draft.

The prospect of being drafted into a Buddhist-run army waging a war against their own brethren is not what many young Malay Muslims would want to be part of. But failure to turn up for the draft would mean possible arrest or jail time.

The military draft in Thailand relies on a nail-biting lottery system. After going through a humiliating physical check-up, the young men draw straws from a jar filled with rolled up slips of paper. Red means enlist, black means you are off the hook.

After spending a lifetime avoiding the Thai state, these young men's future lies at their fingertips: either return to their Malay lives, or become a Thai - a subservient subject in the king's Buddhist army.

Filmmaker Orlando de Guzman travels to the remote southern village of Dato, to bring us the moving story of two young village men, Ayub and Adik, as they face their own nail-biting recruitment day.

Recruitment Day can be seen from Tuesday, January 25, at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230; Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630; Saturday: 2230; Sunday: 0930; Monday: 0330; Tuesday: 1630.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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