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Red shirt rituals

 

On 12 March, the red shirts began their rally at 6 spots around Bangkok.  They chose to perform major rituals at two places which have significant political implications for their struggle; the Laksi Circle and the King Taksin Monument.

The Laksi Circle is the most commonly known name for this traffic-congested intersection which cuts across Phahonyothin Road and joins Chaeng Watthana and Ram Intra roads in northern Bangkok.  Not many Thai people know what the small monument situated at the centre of the circle is about.  Its official, or original, name is the Monument of Constitution Protection.

It was built in 1936, after the People’s Party had suppressed a rebellion in 1933 led by royals and royalists who attempted return to power.  The battle took place in that area.

However, the history of this monument seems to have been lost nowadays.  Bangkok commuters are too anxious to get past this heavily-congested spot as fast as possible to take any notice.  (This writer has passed it maybe a hundred times without even noticing that there is a symbol of the Constitution on top of the monument.)

 

Monument of Constitution Protection, honouring commoners

The ritual at the Monument of Constitution Protection on 12 March was led by Veera Musigapong and Weng Tojirakan.

 

According to Brahmin Sakrapee Phromchat, the ritual was set to begin at 12.12AM, 12 March; a doomsday time for the Ammat, or traditional elite.  The ritual was to worship the spirits of soldiers who died in the battle and, the Phra Siam Deva Thiraj, which was established by King Rama IV to guard Siam against enemies, and the Hindu Goddess Mother of Earth, the symbol of the ruling Democrat Party.

 

 
Replicas of King Taksin

 

 

Pridi Banomyong, one of the Leaders of the People’s Party which overthrew the Absolute Monarchy in 1932

 

General Phraya Phahon Phonphayuhasena, a military leader of the People’s Party and Siam’s second Prime Minister.  Phahonyothin Road was named after his title.

After the worshipping ceremony, Veera explained to the crowd that the monument marked the location where the people’s forces were able to suppress the Ammat rebels in 1933.   

 

Burning chilli and salt as a curse for enemies

 

Burning a coffin for Ammat

At Wongwian Yai, or big circle, on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, the red shirts performed unprecedented rituals.

Around the circle, it seemed normal with people commuting and shops open, except for a few gold shops.

Jatuphorn Phromphan, Pheua Thai MP, Wiphuthalaeng Phatthanaphumthai and Mainung K. Kunnathi led the red shirts there.

At the centre of the circle is situated a monument to King Taksin, an ethnic Chinese who saved Siam from the Burmese and became King of Thonburi in 1768.  His reign was short-lived and he was succeeded by the current Chakri Dynasty in 1782.

Thaksin’s name is close to Taksin, especially in Romanized form. 

At 12.12 am, Mainung read out a ‘people’s decree’.  In contrast to traditional decrees of the elite which mention angels and deities, it only mentioned commoners such as farmers, vendors, and workers, including Nuamthong Phraiwal, a taxi driver who committed suicide after 19 Sept 2006 in protest against the coup.

It had been planned that during the reading of the people’s decree, ordinary agricultural instruments like hoes and spades would be brought to be immersed in a tub of sacred water, in a traditional Thai way of making objects sacred, but the instruments had been seized by police at checkpoints as weapons.  9 plastic foot clappers were donated by the crowd and immersed in the tub instead.

 

Jatuphorn and Wiphuthalaeng, representing the red shirts, poured the sacred water onto the ground to declare independence from the Ammat.  A gong was banged 7 times, meaning that the struggle for true democracy has to be relentlessly pursued 7 days a week.

Some red shirts then sprayed or even poured the sacred water over their heads as a blessing.  Some sprayed the water on others to share the merit.       

 

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