Renegade Thai general Khattiya Sawasdipol, suspended from duty for his sympathies toward red shirt protesters, had been helping them secure a protest site. Some red shirts had begun to disavow him.
A renegade Army general who openly supported Thailand’s red-shirt protesters was shot and seriously wounded Thursday, apparently by a sniper, in what may mark a major escalation in the prolonged and violent political crisis.
Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol was shot at the perimeter of the sprawling red-shirt encampment in central Bangkok and was taken to a private hospital, where his supporters have gathered. Sporadic gunfire in the area wounded several other red shirts, say security sources.
Khattiya was suspended earlier this year from duty for defying his superiors and has become a celebrity among protesters. He took charge of securing the protest site and has opposed a peace plan worked out by red-shirt leaders and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Khattiya, who was securing the site in an unofficial capacity, has urged the protesters to fight on rather than accept a compromise.
The shooting came as the military began to impose a cordon around the sprawling protest site in a commercial district, five weeks after its seizure. Repeated calls to evacuate the site have been ignored and haven’t been backed by force, though deadly clashes took place on April 10 at another site in the capital.
It wasn’t clear who was behind the shooting, though red-shirt activists claim that military snipers were seen using tall buildings in the area. Khattiya, who is known as Sae Daeng, or "red commander," was reportedly talking to foreign correspondents when he was shot in the head.
Panitan Wattanyagorn, a government spokesperson, said the shooting took place in an area not under military control. He said it was still under investigation and wouldn’t comment on the possibility that a military marksman was responsible.