A Briton arrested in Thailand after being filmed inciting people to burn down a shopping centre during the Red Shirt protests has claimed he was “being stitched up”.
Jeff Savage, 48, and from Tonbridge, Kent, was captured on video exhorting protesters to set fire to the Central World shopping centre in central Bangkok, days before it was torched and destroyed.
“I am being stitched up, being fitted up,” he told the Guardian from a Bangkok remand prison, where he was taken after being arrested on Sunday.
“I thought (my arrest) was just for overstaying my visa, but now this is serious. They are trying to pin a whole lot of stuff on me, and a few others...that we had nothing to do with. We are being made scapegoats.”
Dozens of people were killed and injured during violent demonstrations and gun battles which paralysed the capital. A curfew remains in place in Bangkok and in 23 other Thai provinces.
Mr Savage, who has lived in Thailand for nine years, was filmed wearing a bandanna and saying of Central World: “We’re gonna loot everything, gold, watches, everything, and then we’re gonna burn it to the ground.”
He told the Guardian: “It was definitely me, I said that.”
But he added: “I was under stress when I said those things. I was emotional, I was wound up because I’d been under sniper fire. I said it using old British sarcasm. I was being the caricature of the British soccer hooligan.”
The Thai government is reportedly preparing to charge him with violating the state of emergency decree, an offence which carries a two-year prison sentence.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office (FCO) has revised its advice to travellers destined for Bangkok, discouraging them from “all but essential” trips to the Thai capital. The FCO said the situation was “returning to normal”, but “still unpredictable”.