The Thai government is getting a lot of flack for its crackdown of the Red demonstrations this week. Although I admit their management of the situation leaves something to be desired, I don’t think it’s fair to blame only the government and military for the violence that has troubled Thailand lately. Foreign agencies were quick to call for them to check their use of force against the demonstrators. And yet, why didn’t the international community call for the UDD to check its militant behavior – and its lack of consideration for the livelihoods of other citizens?
To demonstrate, here’s a clip of Arisman Pongruangrong, one of the hardline Red leaders, just days before the crackdown. I’ve only translated the first 54 seconds of his speech, but it should be plentifully instructive:
“Brothers and sisters, let’s plan for next time. If we know that they [the soldiers] are coming to get us, we don’t need to prepare anything much. Each of you come with a glass bottle and fill it up with gasoline here. Measure out 75 cc .to one liter. If one million of us come to Bangkok and there are one million liters of gasoline, I guarantee that Bangkok will be a sea of flame! (Applause.) The fighting methods of the Red Shirts are that simple – may the soldiers be aware! Tell the soldiers, those dogs, the servants of the aristocracy: if they injure a Red Shirt, if they shed a single drop of blood, Bangkok will immediately become a sea of flame! (Applause.)”
This maniac threatened to burn Bangkok, home to nine million of his fellow citizens, with all its cultural and historical assets, into a sea of flame?? How far does freedom of speech extend? Could he give a similar speech in the United States under the same circumstances and not be charged with incitement to riot?
The worst part is that Arisman’s followers took his words to heart. The city, as well as certain provincial capitals, are in shambles – and the fault lies squarely with those renegades who followed Arisman’s incitements.
So let’s not point the finger of blame in one direction.