Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let a thousand flowers bloom

Iron Flowers, that is:

As hawt as they are deadly

Along with heart-shaped earrings and a golden bracelet, Napassanan Muensawat accessorises her black uniform with an M16-A1 assault rifle.

The weapon, with a shorter stock and barrel than the standard model, is easier to use for the "iron flowers", 130 female paramilitary rangers newly deployed to tackle an increasingly brutal insurgency in Muslim majority southern Thailand.

In the dangerously potent mix, the women rangers' presence is part of a growing female role on both sides - a bomber was identified as a woman for the first time earlier this year.

As well as "hearts and minds" type patrols, the "iron flowers" have been called in to defuse possibly explosive demonstrations of women and children demanding the release of arrested militant suspects — and sometimes to go in, unarmed and in plain clothes, to spy on them.

"I'm not scared because I go with goodwill and good intentions," said Miss Napassanan, 33, at her base with the 41st infantry regiment in Raman. "I want to serve the province and the country.

"I say things like, 'Why are you bringing all your children here in the hot weather? Your children will get sick'."

The rangers say that their sex is a defence in itself — it would be wrong to attack a woman — but one male officer said: "They are very brave, even the male rangers are not as brave as them."

Unfortunately, the rest of the article doesn't offer much hope for an end to the conflict.

But perhaps we can hope for the Thai versions of these images:

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