The spilling of blood in modern political protest is an exceptional event. This article discusses the deployment of blood as a means of struggle by the members of an extra-parliamentary movement, known as the ‘red shirts’, in March 2010, in the course of their prolonged attempt to topple the government of the Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Two contesting discourses of blood are discussed: the symbolic discourse of blood as a self-sacrificial act deployed by the protesters to curse their enemies, and the medical counter-discourse deployed by the authorities, in an effort to neutralise the protesters' act. Several issues raised by the blood-spilling act are examined: its perceived appropriateness, its ritual roots and its disputed effectiveness as a curse. In conclusion, it is suggested that the blood ritual constitutes a reflective move to counter the prevailing ‘regime of images’ in Thai society.
Erik Cohen is Professor Emeritus at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Correspondence in connection with this paper should be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author would like to thank Nir Avieli, Mark Neal and Kathleen Adams for their comments on an earlier draft of this article.