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Pattaya Daily News

14 May 2010 :: 05:05:20 am 20359

Red Shirt military chief shot as Thai army moves in

Thousands of anti-government protesters occupying the centre of Bangkok have vowed to fight to the death after a renegade general who led the movement’s paramilitary wing was shot in the head, apparently by an army sniper.
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Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, 59, a suspended officer who has been in charge of the Red Shirt protesters’ barricaded encampment in the Thai capital, was hit as he was giving an interview to The New York Times.

At least one person was killed and eight injured when violence flared after the army said that it was imposing a lockdown around the district where demonstrators have been demanding the resignation of the Government.

The Cabinet, backing out of a previous offer to hold elections early, declared a state of emergency in the 17 provinces where the Red Shirts — supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed Prime Minister — hold sway. Britain and the United States closed their embassies in Bangkok.

General Khattiya, also known as Seh Daeng — “Commander Red” — was speaking to the media after the army began encircling the barricades with armoured cars. He said he was sure that the troops would attack under the cover of darkness. The army said it would also be employing snipers. “It’s either dusk or dawn when the troops will go in,” General Khattiya predicted.

Ninety minutes later, after night fell, he was shot as he was telling a reporter how the army might be thwarted by a cordon that he had helped to erect.

Darkee Chompang, 47, a guard on the protesters’ barricade, was on duty when he heard gunfire and saw the general collapse. Mr Darkee peered over the encampment’s massive bamboo wall and watched helmeted soldiers moving in the grounds of a nearby building as he related his story in a whisper.

“I saw Seh Daeng talking to a group of people,” he said. “Then I heard what sounded like gunshots, very loud. And then there was chaos.”

Mr Darkee, who was armed with a bamboo stave and brandishing a metal shield, said he thought that General Khattiya had survived. The general was later reported to be in intensive care in hospital.

Observers had no doubt that he had been singled out. “It’s a clear attempt to decapitate the Red Shirt military leadership,” Anthony Davies, a security consultant, said. “It’s a smart tactical move that will cause confusion in the Red Shirts’ military ranks and send a message to the leadership that if they don’t want to negotiate and come out, they can expect extreme consequences.”

Weng Tojirakarn, a Red Shirt leader, said that the demonstrators would not be cowed. “They tried to suppress us,” he told The Times. “They tried to kill us. Maybe they tried to threaten us by shooting Seh Daeng. They are coming now. We are waiting for death.”

Other leaders shouted their defiance to the thousands-strong crowd in speeches greeted with cheers. “We will send out groups to surround these [army] vehicles to prevent them from advancing,” Jatuporn Prompan announced. The largely working-class Red Shirts, who say that the Government is illegal, have been protesting in Bangkok since early March, and camped at the Ratchaprasong inter-section since early last month. With tarpaulin shelters, food sellers and washing hung up to dry, the once-upmarket shopping district has come to resemble a down-at-heel village.

The Government of Abhisit Vejjajiva has tried to persuade the protesters to return to their homes, predominantly in the poor north of Thailand. A military crackdown on April 10 claimed 25 lives, mostly those of protesters. Some officials hope that the advent of the rainy season, and the time to plant rice, might lure the protesters away, but although numbers have waxed and waned, Red Shirt leaders have proved that they can rally thousands.

Mr Abhisit had offered to hold elections a year before they were due, but the protesters held out for the prosecution of the Deputy Prime Minister for ordering the April crackdown. Under pressure finally to disperse the protesters, Mr Abhisit has withdrawn the election offer but has said that he will work for reconciliation. “I have cancelled the election date . . . because protesters refuse to disperse,” he said. “I have told security officials to restore normalcy.”

 Source from: CNN

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Politics News

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