Friday, May 14, 2010

Thai Troops Clash With Protesters

Sporadic violence continued in the Thai capital on Friday as protesters challenged soldiers deployed around their encampment and fired homemade rockets at hovering helicopters.

Troops and the protesters — the so-called red shirts — confronted each other Friday near the spot where the shooting of an anti-government major general by a sniper on Thursday night touched off an evening of violence. Gunshots were heard on Friday morning, and according to one witness, men with firebombs attempted to set fire to military vehicles around noon.

The renegade general, Khattiya Sawatdiphol, 58, had become a symbol of the lawlessness and impunity that have torn Thailand apart as the protests have pitted the nation’s poor against its establishment.

He was shot during an interview with a reporter for The New York Times about 7 p.m., one hour after the military announced the start of a blockade and cut off electricity and water to a tent city of thousands of protesters.

The reporter, who was two feet away and facing the general, heard a loud bang similar to that of a firecracker.

The general fell to the ground, his eyes wide open, and protesters took his apparently lifeless body to a hospital, screaming his nickname: “Seh Daeng has been shot! Seh Daeng has been shot!”

He was later reported to be on life support. Within hours, protesters were clashing with security forces in Lumpini Park in Bangkok.

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