Thailand: Aiming For Parity

Agnes Dherbeys / VII Mentor for TIME

Fighting back
The Iron Ladies training in a Buddhist temple's grounds

Jiranan Phedsri confesses that she has "one true friend." The 51-year-old Thai housewife strokes the object of her affection, caressing its cool curves. The recipient of the devout Buddhist's ardor? A .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol Jiranan carries wherever she goes in Thailand's troubled deep south, where a Muslim insurgency has resulted in roughly 4,000 deaths since it gained momentum in 2004. The handgun, though, isn't Jiranan's only trusted companion. As a volunteer in the Iron Ladies, an all-female civilian militia designed to protect Buddhists from Islamic extremists, she received military training on how to wield rifles and machine...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!