Rogue army leader shot in renewed Thailand protests
Published 14/05/2010 | 05:00
Violence returned to Thailand's anti-government protests yesterday when a rogue army general was shot in the head hours after the military vowed to blockade the sprawling Red Shirt encampment crippling Bangkok's commercial hub.
Gunfire and at least one explosion was heard near one Red Shirt barricade, leaving Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol, the protesters' self-styled security chief, and a number of others wounded.
The renegade army general accused of leading a paramilitary force among the protesters was shot yesterday while speaking to reporters as the government prepared to blockade the protesters' camp.
At least one person was killed in clashes between the anti-government protesters and soldiers that continued into the night, the government's medical emergency centre said. It said seven others were injured.
Mr Sawasdipol (59) was shot after the government said that troops would encircle the protesters' encampment, and that snipers would shoot "terrorists" in an effort to end the two-month-long siege.
Known by his nickname Seh Daeng, Mr Sawasdipol was hit as he was being interviewed at the edge of the protest zone.
Moments later, he was dragged by the legs, his head sliding on the ground and leaving a trail of blood as he was rushed to a hospital. An aide said his injury was severe.
The government also announced it was extending a state of emergency to cover 17 provinces to prevent more people from joining the thousands of protesters in the capital. The move gives the army broad powers to deal with protesters and restricts civil liberties.
It was unclear who was responsible for the shooting. Street lights were shut off across the camp which is occupied by around 6,000 protesters who are vowing to defy government demands they leave the site.
A botched attempt to clear another of the protesters' camps on April 10 left 25 people, including 20 protesters, dead. Four others have been killed in other sporadic violence around the rally sites.
The army said it would begin blockading the camp after 11pm last night, to ensure reinforcements would not enter the area.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has lost patience with demonstrators demanding he step down and call fresh elections on the grounds he won power illegitimately.
Irish people were warned last night by the Department of Foreign Affairs to avoid travel to Thailand unless "absolutely necessary". Those who decide to go have been asked to register their details on the department website. Those using Bangkok airport to get to other destinations have been given the all-clear.
Irish citizens in Thailand have been told to avoid travelling to or through central Bangkok, to stay clear of demonstrations, government buildings, state institutions and universities. (© Daily Telegraph, London)