A rogue army general who saw himself as a ‘Braveheart’ was last night shot by a sniper as he was giving an interview to a New York Times reporter in Bangkok.
Major General Khittaya Sawasdipol had taken the side of the red-shirted anti-government demonstrators, organizing their defences in the centre of the city. He is on the critical list in a nearby hospital.
The army officer was suspected to be the man behind several grenade attacks launched from within red shirt lines on army, police and civilians. Khittaya denied being behind the attacks. ‘I deny,’ he said ‘No-one saw me!’
But he has also been quoted as saying ‘I have only one dance. It’s the throwing the hand grenade dance.’
Earlier in the week he was named as a terrorist by Eton and Oxford educated Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and he was clearly somebody the government wanted removed from the scene.
The shooting happened as troops moved in to begin a blockade of the red-shirts in an 8 square mile area of the city. The Major General, also known as Seh Daeng, ‘Red Commander’ was shot in his head as he was giving an interview to New York Times correspondent Thomas Fuller.
Seh Daeng , a personal friend of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had fallen out with his army superiors after which he was put in charge of military aerobics training.
‘Everybody laughed at me. You don’t assign a warrior like me to do a stupid thing like that,’ he was quoted as saying afterwards.
In an interview with a wire service reporter he said ‘Do you know the ‘Braveheart’ movie? Mel Gibson is the same as me.’ His comparisons however do not bear much scrutiny. He has compared the defences in Bangkok to the wall erected by the Israelis to keep out the Palestinians.
But while many considered him to be slightly loopy, or a loose cannon, he was admired by red shirts who queued for his autograph whenever he appeared to salutes of his ‘Men in Black’.
Major General Sawasdipol has constructed front lines of tyres, sharpened bamboo poles, and petrol drums.
The situation was tense in Bangkok last night where some 15 civilians were reported to have been injured in seperate clashes, including one fatality.
The British and United States embassies in Bangkok shut down as troops moved in to blockade anti-government red-shirt demonstrators with permission to use live ammunition.
The Embassy will close until further notice. An Embassy spokesman said British citizens should watch the Embassy’s website for any developments.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered troops to move in after the red-shirts, which include several factions, seemed to agree, then disagreed with his conciliatory ‘road map’ and offer of early elections in November.
But that offer expired as the red shirted supporters of ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra made new demands, and Abhisit Vejjajiva announced the deal was now off.
Most of the red shirts, who once numbered over 50,000 have left, but those in the cordoned off area include hardcore activists including the group the ‘Ronin Warriors’ trained by Seh Daeng
Red shirt leaders have also made a call to the provinces to summon more supporters. The Army however say people can leave the cordoned off area but they cannot enter.