It took two days for the young Muslim assassin to calm his nerves before the slaying.
Then, Mohama Waekaji says, he walked one cool morning to a rice mill, carrying a knife and following orders from a guerrilla commander to behead the 72-year-old Buddhist owner.
He asked the elderly man, Juan Kaewtongprakam, for some rice husks. As he turned to collect them, Waekaji says, he slashed the blade through the man’s neck.
"I didn’t dare to disobey," the 23-year-old Waekaji said in an interview with The Associated Press _ the first time a Thai militant accused of a beheading has spoken to the Western media. "I knew they would come after me if I did not do what I was told."
The killing in February was one in a spate of beheadings that has shocked Thailand, a nation with no past history of the practice, and fueled fears that the brutal terrorist tactics of the Middle East are spreading in Asia.
Twenty-five beheadings _ including 10 already this year _ have been reported in southern Thailand since an Islamic-inspired insurgency erupted in 2004, claiming more than 2,200 lives. Militants in the heavily Muslim region seek independence from mostly Buddhist Thailand.
"Beheadings are certainly on the rise outside of the Middle East proper," said Timothy Furnish, professor of Middle Eastern history at Georgia Perimeter College. "These groups do take their cues from ... hardcore Islamic thought coming out of the Arab world. Beheading infidels not only shocks, but also demonstrates Islamic bona fides to other groups."
Thai authorities say jihad videos from the Middle East, captured from rebel training camps, may be inspiring young men like Waekaji. One clip said to have come from Iraq shows a woman lying on her side on a patch of grass as a man slowly cuts her throat with a long knife. Blood spurts from the wound, the screaming finally stops and her head is completely severed.
"The inspiration is clearly coming across the Internet or through DVDs clips," said Zachary Abuza, an expert on terrorism in Southeast Asia at Simmons College in Boston.
"Islamist militants in Southeast Asia are very frustrated that the region is considered the Islamic periphery," Abuza added. "... Militants of the region are actively trying to pull the region into the Islamic core. They want people to understand that their jihad is a part of the global jihad."
Beheadings have been linked to other militants across Asia, including groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indian-held Kashmir and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. In the mostly Roman Catholic Philippines, at least 37 people have been decapitated in the last decade by the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf.
Beheadings are not solely a tool of guerrillas. Its imposed as punishment under some strict interpretations of Islamic law such as in Saudi Arabia and under the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
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