Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdiphol was in a very critical condition late last night after the leader of the red shirts' alleged militant wing had been shot in the head at the Saladaeng intersection on a hightension day marked by mysterious gunshots, explosions and almost total blockade of the Rajprasong rally site by government troops.
Khattiya, who only hours earlier had threatened to take over the red movement from moderate leaders, was shot by a sniper shortly after giving an interview to a small group of local and foreign reporters. He was rushed to the Hua Chiew Hospital but news reports said he was later about to be moved to another hospital, possibly Vajira. His daughter confirmed with reporters that Khattiya was in a coma.
The incident took place shortly before or around 7 pm, almost in parallel with a commotion in the area caused by mysterious explosions, gunshots and sounds of firecrackers.
It was initially reported that some 20 people including women and children were injured in the related incident. But late last night, the director of the Erawan Centre, Petchpong Kamjornkarn, told The Nation that he was aware of only three people wounded including Khattiya. The doctor also expressed concern about what could be coming next.
The government yesterday stepped up pressure on the red shirts by sealing off key roads around Rajprasong, as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva confirmed that his pledge to hold an election on November 14 no longer stayed. Before the evening incidents, a highranking government source told The Nation a crackdown seemed unavoidable, but the government would not take action after nightfall for fear of repetition of the April 10 tragedy.
Red leaders kept the Khattiya incident from Rajprasong protesters for more than hour, until Jatuporn Prompan went on stage at around 9 pm to announce that the officer was not "safe". Khattiya's relations with red "political" leaders had been soured after some of the latter showed eagerness to embrace Abhisit's fivepoint roadmap to reconciliation.
Khattiya, better known as "Se Daeng", had been threatening a "war" in the wake of the prime minister's proposal. The officer was also heavily linked with unknown "men in black" who attacked troops on April 10 at the Rajdamnoen Avenue. Before April 10, he and red leaders had disavowed each other but after the bloodshed he returned almost triumphantly to the Rajprasong rally site although he never seemed to be among the inner circles of the red political hierarchy.
The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation kept a tight lip over the Saladaeng incidents, and its latenight announcement was exclusively about extension of the state of emergency measures to cover 15 more provinces.
In a fresh outbreak of violence before press time, one man was killed and at least four others injured when red shirt protesters clashed with troops outside Lumpini Park near the Sathorn junction. The victim died at the Chulalongkorn Hospital from a gunshot wound, Nation TV reported.