Burning Thailand: Teaching Thai School Children About Protest Arson

Above: From Voice of Taksin, March 1-16, 2010
The caption reads: Special campaign to greet the coup festival – Cheer up, Thaksin! Do not throw more than 2 bottles a day!
[Employing Molotov cocktails is often mentioned in Red Shirt speeches. Men carrying Molotov cocktails were a prominent feature of the April 2009 rioting. In this cartoon, imagery and advertising slogans from a popular energy drink are used along with the warning on the bottle advises not to drink more than two bottles per day.]

Chinnaworn: ‘Arson’ school text OK – Bangkok Post, April 7, 2011

Red complaints lead to textbook revisions – The Nation, April 9, 2011
…Red-shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn, at a press conference earlier this week, blamed the government for allowing a Matthayom 3 textbook to contain content alleging the red shirts burned the city. The documents were biased, as they did not mention the yellow shirts’ actions, he said…

To understand the context of the arson, including the necessity of incessant threats to commit it beforehand, see the 2B report from last year: Is Thai arson “unprecedented?”
No. Arson and threats of arson are perennial fixtures of protest in Thailand. Arson is a normal indicator of both personal dissatisfaction and especially dissatisfaction of major figures or political groups who feel they have been wronged or treated unfairly.
There is a long history of both unionists and locals residents burning down factories, hotels etc., over various grievances. Threats of arson–particularly burning Bangkok to ashes–were also a perennial theme of the Red Shirts.
Arson attacks happened during and after the protests in the 1970s and at the end of the Black May events in 1992. There was also an ongoing spate of arson attacks in the provinces in the months after the 2006 coup.
While the scale and locations of arson in this case are stunning to affluent Bangkok residents, neither the threats of arson nor the carrying of it out are outside historical norms…

[It should be noted that the present desire to deny a Red Shirt role in the Bangkok rioting and arson is probably to insulate the Pheu Thai Party from attempts to disband it by association with the events of April 2009 and 2010.
However, the burning of provincial city halls in 2010, coordinated by Red Shirt community radio broadcasts and openly undertaken by locals, is more difficult to explain away.]

Veera threatens to burn NACC head office – The Nation, April 3, 2010

Outside Bangkok, “Red Shirts” still fighting, burn down city hall – observers.france24.com, May 19, 2010

Smoke (and mirrors) behind Bangkok fires – AsiaTimes, June 17, 2010
[Good article on the targeted and deliberate nature of the burnings at the end of the rally which we pointed out on May 24.]
…Some believe that if the UDD was truly engaged in a rich-versus-poor class struggle, then it would have also symbolically torched the more upscale Gaysorn Plaza shopping mall, the other main commercial edge of its Rajaprasong protest stage directly opposite CentralWorld. Controlled by the local Srivikorn family, Gaysorn Plaza also owns the nearby Amarin Plaza shopping and office tower where the McDonalds – that stayed open throughout most of the protest – became a popular, air-conditioned gathering spot for UDD leaders.
Indeed, a number of terrified red shirt protesters sought shelter in the upper floors of the Amarin on May 19. The family – different members own different bits of the sprawling empire – also owns the two five-star hotels behind Gaysorn Plaza and some nearby condominiums. The Srivikorns were badly bruised by the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and Pimol Srivikorn joined Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT), a political party that on the campaign trail capitalized on popular anger over a slow economic recovery. He was banned from politics by for electoral malpractice along with 110 other TRT MPs in May 2007…

Spreading money as the only salve – Bangkok Post, May 29, 2010
…Among them were the twins of rhetoric, one wearing a Gandhi T-shirt and the other a Pheu Thai member of parliament. How they whipped up a frenzy. Bangkok’s citizens clearly saw red but couldn’t stop the momentum.
“Burn! I’ll take responsibility!” one blared on stage, while the other described the kind of panic the military-backed government was inducing among their Isan brethren. “Many of us, when in panic, will reach for brandname handbags, some will rush for gems and jewellery,” he said, giving owners of upscale emporiums a heart attack at the prospect of looting.
(Afterwards, soldiers checking the bundles of homeward-bound protesters who had gathered in a temple, retrieved many expensive watches and bracelets.)…

Nuttawut threatens to burn the city (with English subtitles) – YouTube, May 20, 2010

Arisman urges protesters to be ready to burn the city – YouTube, May 20, 2010

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