Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha warned against establishing red shirt villages in the far South, but key government figures have shrugged off his reservations.
Gen Prayuth said yesterday that people had to be careful of the unrest in the region, He said building these villages would increase the violence there.
On May 5, the red-shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) held a ceremony to open 14 red shirt villages in Cho Airong district of Narathiwat province.
In Songkhla province, a red shirt village was opened in Chana district on Monday. One day later the main pavilion of the village was burned down.
The UDD has opened around 20,000 red shirt villages, mostly in northeastern and northern provinces, and is looking to replicate its success in the South.
Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, spokesman for the opposition Democrat Party whose MPs dominate the southern region, denied his party was behind the act of arson in the Chana village.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit said red shirt villages were founded to protect the nation, religion, the monarchy, the constitution and democracy.
He denied the government was behind the red shirt villages, or financially supports them.
Korkaew Pikulthong, a red shirt co-leader and party-list MP of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, said the UDD would promote red shirt villages to fight against coups and the drugs trade.
He also denied that government coffers funded red shirt activities.
Mr Korkaew accused a politician in Songkhla of plotting the burning of the pavilion, and demanded an end to attempts to create disunity in the country.
Gen Prayuth said Thais had yet to learn what real democracy was, and might have to go through some pain before learning their lesson.
The army chief said the situation would improve if people made the national interest a priority.
Meanwhile, the mother of nurse Kamolkate Akkahad _ who was shot dead in Bangkok during clashes between red shirts and security forces on May 19, 2010 _ has complained at Government House about delays in compensation payments to victims of the political unrest.
Sompas Nilpan, public service director of the permanent secretary at the PM’s Office, said 529 people will receive the first round of compensation on May 24.