News / Asia

Rogue Thai General Has Enemies on Both Sides

The renegade Thai general shot and wounded at an anti-government protest site Thursday has enemies in the government he broke rank with and the protest movement he vowed to defend.

General Khattiya Sawasdiphol, better known as "Seh Daeng," or Commander Red, is a legendary figure in Thailand, famous for the battlefield prowess he showed while fighting communist insurgents in the 1970s.

A staunch supporter of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the general assumed a leading role with the pro-Thaksin "Red Shirt" political movement.

The 58-year-old general has commanded a small team of loyal hardline-supporters who guard the Red Shirt encampment in downtown Bangkok.  He was frequently seen dressed in his camouflage uniform, inspecting the crude bamboo barricades built around the site as admirers approached him for his autograph.

But many within the protest movement had openly distanced themselves from Seh Daeng, out of concern that his methods were too violent. He has been accused of being responsible for several grenade attacks in Bangkok in recent weeks, a charge he denies.

The current government has called him a terrorist.  He has been suspended without pay, and a military committee is considering stripping him of his rank.

The general has faced disciplinary action before. In 2008, he was famously reassigned to teach an aerobics class as a form of punishment.

As the Thai government puts more pressure on the Red Shirts to vacate their protest site, Seh Daeng has defiantly vowed not to let security forces in without a fight.

He was shot Thursday while conducting an interview with the New York Times. The newspaper report says his last words before being struck were, in Thai, "the military cannot get in here."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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