This chapter provides a general background of the southern Thai conflict, describes ethnographic challenges of working in a conflict area, and outlines the larger framework of religion and violence. International and Thai analysts largely overlook Buddhist calls to arms when they attempt to explain the spikes of violence in the war-torn region. This is a serious oversight. Religion changes the contour of a conflict and infuses it with cosmic relevance. Although not the primary agents, Buddhist monks are armed participants in the southern Thai conflict. Violence becomes a religiously justifiable action as long as it is deemed defensive. In many ways, this and the subsequent chapters discuss practices that contrast with the most well-established assumptions of Buddhist traditions and monasticism.
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