One day after the fiery destruction of much of the Central World Plaza mall on May 19, Internet conspiracy theories took shape regarding the "crazy farang" filmed several days prior. In a Youtube video (since removed) a Briton proclaims the mall will be looted and burnt.

Having spent significant time behind the barricades of the reds' fortified Silom camp, I had seen this man several times. He never spoke in a normal tone of voice -- always shouting and screaming. It didn't take a DSM-IV diagnosis to tell he was emotionally disturbed.

His presence posed a threat to any Westerners, particularly journalists, who might be among the reds. Two photojournalist colleagues and I had established enough rapport with the "Men in Black" that they would hold fire when we entered and left the camp. Leaving only the army snipers to worry about.

On the morning of Saturday, May 15, the Crazy Farang ran out into the street and began throwing rocks toward the army, screaming "Thai Army fucks!" and ordering the reds to "Kill them! Kill them!" They laughed at him. Obviously they were amused but didn't take him seriously. When an AFP reporter told him to chill out, he screamed at him and tried to start an altercation. "They killed my friend! This is war!" he yelled. The reds threatened to kick him out at that point. It seems unlikely to me he participated in any conspiracy or any type of planning that might have led to the mall fire. I don't think he even spoke Thai.

I was there to document the greater conflict, so I didn't waste any further tape on him. Didn't consider him more than a novelty and annoyance. Someone who, at best, had eschewed the usual mechanisms for a typical midlife crisis. Yes, I'm muttering my unkind, internal dialogue.

Reporterinexile.com

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