x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Thai general who acts as Red Shirt security chief shot in head

Chief military adviser of anti-government protesters shot in the head during interview with newspaper as automatic gunfire is heard near Bangkok's business district.

BANGKOK // The chief military adviser of Thailand's anti-government protesters was shot in the head today, apparently during an interview with The International Herald Tribune, after an explosion and bursts of automatic gunfire were heard near Bangkok's business district. Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, a suspended army specialist in charge of security at an encampment occupied by thousands of "red shirt" demonstrators, was admitted to an intensive care ward after being shot, said the state Narenthorn Emergency Medical Service.

An aide described the injury as "severe." "Seh Daeng was shot in the head," said the aide, referring to Maj Khattiya by his nickname. It was not possible to verify the aide's claim that Maj Khattiya was shot by a sniper. Calls to police and army spokesmen seeking comment were not answered. Several Thai media outlets also reported that Maj Khattiya was shot and taken to a hospital. The report of Maj Khattiya's shooting came after sounds of gunfire and at least four explosions, after the government said it will impose a military lockdown on the fortified encampment of the red shirts, who have defied warnings to end their five-week occupation of an upmarket Bangkok shopping district.

The mood at the protest site turned quickly in the afternoon from festive to tense. Leaders took turns on the stage to call for more protesters to come to the encampment, chanting "come out, come out" and threatening to lay siege to prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's house and an infantry barracks where he has taken refuge if there is a crackdown. Mr Abhisit is under enormous pressure to end the two-month crisis that has seen 29 people killed, more than 1,000 wounded , parts of Bangkok paralysed and slowed growth in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

* AP and Reuters