In a move that finally cost him his life, Seh Daeng, a Thai army general, abandoned his allegiance to the anti Democracy Elite Establishment, and join the pro Democracy Red Shirt movement. And he went beyond just joining the Red Shirts. Most observer call Seh Daeng the “Chief of Security” for the Red Shirts movement.
(Up-Dated) Thailand’s Dictator Prayuth, threw all death cases involved in the 2010 crac-down, out of the normal court system, to the court for political offenses, where the first step at this court, is the anti-corruption agency. Thailand’s anti-corruption agency, works for the Bangkok traditional elite.
In the book, “Lub, Kom Seh Daeng,” by Lim, a close friend of Seh Daeng, Lim said quote:
- “Seh Daeng was genuinely happy to be among the Red Shirts protesters…..Like a movie star to the poor grassroots Red Shirts protesters, they surround Seh Daeng asking for his photograph and autograph……Everywhere Seh Daeng went among the Red Shirts protesters, they would follow Seh Deang. He was the star of the show.”
In defense of the Red Shirts protesters, Seh Daeng lead a ragtag militia, which in full public view, mostly went around with sticks, burning auto rubber tire and used sling shots. There are talks of much more heavy items, used by Seh Daeng in defense of the Red Shirts.
But Seh Daeng says often, to journalist, quote:
- “I am confident we can do the job of standing up to the well-organized Thai military and its 1,000s of well equipped soldiers, and also the Yellow Shirts guards with their golf clubs, baseball bats, slingshots and their guns.”
The Thai political crisis was very dangerous. The Elite Establishment’s Yellow Shirts would have “Impunity” at anything they do, and the Red Shirts, enjoyed no similar impunity. The Red Shirts, many, but had to face the “Blunt power of the law.”
To a foreign journalist, Seh Daeng said, quote:
“The police couldn’t help. My men are not an army, they are resistance. I am not on the side of the reds or the yellows, I am independent. The PAD says they want to save the country. But they are dragging the monarchy down into politics. This situation needs tough leadership. But the government is weak, no one is capable of sorting this out, not even the army. Everyone is afraid of the PAD. The only one they are afraid of is me.’
- ‘Nobody messes with me, I am a warrior, I am Seh Daeng.’
Seh Daeng, while indeed, kept his distance from the Red Shirts protesters at the start of the Thai political crisis. But as the situation developed, without a doubt, he joined the pro Democracy Red Shirts movement. Many said, that joining was mostly Seh Daeng’s own decision, that “No one can refuse the offer.”
(Up-Dated) A coup had occurred, by Prayuth. The coup came after a combination of Suthep, former security chief of Abhisit lead protest and judicialization, remdered the Yingluck government not able to function. That un-able to function, coupled with opposing protest, from Suthep and the Reds, lead army chief to attempt to broker a deal, but he failed, and as a result took control. Sunsequent news from Suthep, says he an Prayuth have been working together to topple Yingluck. Prayuth deny the charges. In coming to power, Prayuth changed the police chief, to being a police that is ally with the military. Seh Daeng’s assasination, apprear far from being re-solved.
The first time I met Seh Daeng was at a Red Shirts protest, long before the Red Shirts occupy the Rajprasong intersection.
But it was still a tense time, as with every Red Shirts protest, the entire protest area would be partitioned off, and the border would guarded by both the Elite Establishment security force, and the Red Shirts protesters own security guards.
There has been lots of talk about how the Red Shirts security guards, with Seh Daeng involvement, carried weapons such as guns. But at most of the Red Shirts protest, security guards, actually went around wearing T-Shirts that says, “Non Violence.”
Does that T-Shirts wearing actually mean the guards were non violent? Well, who knows.
At one gathering of the Red Shirts, as I walked among them, there was an area where there was a long line and large crowd of protesters. About in the middle of that crowd of Red Shirts protesters, was Seh Daeng. Seh Daeng was signing autographs, on to lots of things, like hats, where even hats with Red Socialist Stars to it. Many were taking pictures of Seh Daeng.
- After each signing, Seh Daeng would salute to the person that just got his autograph or picture, in a “Strict Military” style. And almost always, with the “Strict Military” style salute, the crowd would approve with smiles and laughter. The whole Seh Daeng met the Red Shirts, where most of the Red Shirts were grass-roots, was about crossing the Thai social divide, between upper class and the lower class. Seh Daeng after all, is a Thai Army general, that traditionally, protected the Elite Establishment.
“Can I have a smile for my camera Seh Daeng,” I asked him, shouting into where he was standing with his 4 to 5 body guards, giving away signatures.
“You have to come here and stand in line like everyone else,” shouted back Seh Daeng, with a face, that was not in a friendly welcome mood. I got the signal, and went to join the line, and waited to get close to Seh Daeng.
- Seh Daeng was definitely, a Thai army general that belonged to the people.
In Thailand’s history, the military is mostly pro Elite Establishment. That being pro Elite Establishment, have meant that since Absolute Monarchy was replaced by Constitutional Monarchy, some 80 years ago, the Thai military was mostly anti Democracy. In fact, since WW 2, Thailand is ranked as 4th globally, with the most number of coup staged.
In that long Thai history, of the past 80 year of being mostly anti democracy, there was a short period of time that the so called “Democratic Soldier” movement, occurred in Thailand. That movement had long died off, leaving few soldiers of that thinking around today. But during the time of the height of Thailand’s Democratic Soldier, they pushed for many progressive agenda for the Thai military.
- Similar to Seh Daeng, Thailand’s Democratic Soldiers of the past, they were the “People’s Soldier.”
Many are in dispute what the Red Shirts movement stand for. But the fact is, the Red Shirts movement is the largest movement in Thailand’s history, being the grass roots, that is interested in Democracy.
Seh Daeng, for what ever the reason, dedicated his life, to protect the movement.
A Dramatic Life & Death
A foreign journalist noted of Seh Daeng: “He is not an ordinary man. He is ‘Seh Daeng’ – a folk hero in Thailand for his combat exploits from Laos to Cambodia to Aceh.”
In fact, there was a time, that Seh Daeng was highly popular with foreign journalist in Thailand. There are literally 10s of 10s of interviews with Seh Daeng by foreign journalist.
Many Red Shirts, even today, fault the death of Seh Daeng on foreign journalist. In deed, Seh Daeng knew in advance that snipers would be targeting him, as his security guard, would prevent Seh Daeng from “Too Long” an exposure to being open. And Seh Daeng, would often give interview in well protected area.
But on the day he was assassinated, the Red Shirts says, Seh Daeng, was, quote: “Intentionally lured out in the open long enough for the sniper to lock on and kill Seh Daeng.” But there was no doubt, many foreign journalist were following Seh Daeng.
“He speaks animatedly, eyes intense, face animated, gesticulating decisively. He gets up and takes down a poster showing the covers of several books about him. They show him riding a white stallion, brandishing weapons, and dressed as a Muslim in an undercover mission in Aceh,” said one journalist.
- “Seh Daeng is a larger than life figure in Thailand – a notorious, fearless maverick who famously laughs in the face of enemy fire. He said if it was up to him, he would clear Government House of the PAD protestors in no time. He would first cut off all supplies including water and electricity, then use water cannons on the thousands camped there – and drop snakes on them from helicopters,” said another journalist.
Seh Daeng’s enemy finally caught up.
Tension soared amid the sound of explosions and gunfire and there was a mob atmosphere in Bangkok, where protesters had massed. Then violence erupted as one demonstrator was killed and the key protest leader, Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol, known as Seh Daeng, was shot in the head.
On the evening of May 13, 2010, Seh Daeng was shot in the head, at the intersection of the Sala Daeng Sky Train station. Critically wounded, he was admitted to Huachiew hospital. On May 16, 2010, he suffered renal failure and underwent dialysis. His death was announced on May 17, 2010 at 9:20 am. At the time of his death, he was about to be cashiered from the Royal Thai Army for his refusal to obey orders to stay neutral, in the Thai political crisis.
One journalist summarizes the assassination of Seh Daeng as:
- 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. To today, it is still not known who killed Seh Deang, the very well known soldier, among the Thai people. Seh Daeng is so well known, in most Seven Eleven convenience stores, in Thailand, there were books about his exploits on sale.
War Story Never Dies?
Those words above that “Seh Daeng has been shot! Seh Daeng has been shot!” sound like the first page of a Hollywood Movie script.
- But to be frank, I get a sense, now, a few years after his death, that few really care who killed She Daeng or who Seh Daeng was.
There is very little from the police as to who killed Seh Daeng. Of course, it was the Elite Establishment, that killed Seh Daeng, but which fraction gave the order and which fraction carried out the order.
Latest news, from the police, is that a police general, sort of a mafia in the E-Sarn Region of Thailand, where Nevin fraction is strong, was the fraction that carried out the assassination. But that is all the news there is, sort of a mixture between rumor and politics. Nevin, is the politician that stabbed Thaksin in the back and joined the Elite Establishment in pushing Abhisit into power.
On researching for information on She Daeng, as I expected, the question of who assassinated Seh Daeng, only came up a few weeks and months after he was killed. And after that few weeks and month, most journalists have forgotten Seh Daeng. And as I notice in doing research, after a while there was nothing about Seh Daeng anymore. Even the Seven Eleven convenience store that sold novels on Seh Daeng, stopped carrying books about him, after the political crisis.
- Seh Daeng, seems to be just another character, one of many, that emerged, standing out, of that chaotic time in Bangkok. Like every player that had his time in the Thai political crisis, Seh Daeng had his. But there was time, news on Seh Daeng was “Burning Hot.”
And news of Seh Daeng was global.
A day after Seh Daeng was shot; during the height of the Thai political crisis, CNN and BBC, both reported that Thailand’s army spokesman, Col. Sansern Kaewkumnerd, said that the Thai military had nothing to do with the assassination of Seh Daeng. “The Thursday incident is under investigation,” said the spokesman, both CNN and BBC reports.
- That CNN and BBC reports were a few years back when the Red Shirts protesters were protesting by occupying streets in Bangkok. Currently, it is 2013, and still, no one knows who assassinated Seh Daeng, as the Thai military investigation, mentioned by CNN and BBC, has gotten nowhere. The same is with the Thai police investigation, it have also got nowhere.
CNN said, after the shooting of Seh Daeng, that while it was unknown whether Thailand’s military or government was behind the shooting, the government has previously made it clear it would shoot at what it called armed terrorists. A policeman who saw Seh Daeng wounds told CNN that he has been shot by a sniper.
Bloody & Brutal Crack-Down:
Clearly, after Seh Daeng assassination, the protester’s defense was “Headless” without a commanding figure. If that killing of Seh Daeng was part of the plan to prepare the situation, for crack-down on the protesters, it worked.
After the assassination of Seh Daeng, the mood grows subdued at protest camps, reports foreign journalists. Most foreign press, were reporting events after Seh Daeng was shot and subsequent death, along the following line, from CNN’s iReport, that Bangkok, increasingly, was out of control.
- “The violence erupted after Thai authorities set a new deadline to seal off the Bangkok intersection where protesters have gathered by the thousands for the past month. Officials had said soldiers would seal off roads and shut down rail service leading to the Ratchaprasong intersection at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the formal name of the Red Shirts, greeted the government’s announcement with defiance.
- We want peace but they want war,” said Weng Tojirakarn, a party leader. “We will fight with our bare hands. We will stay.”
Authorities had initially threatened to shut off power, cut supplies and seal off the intersection at midnight Thursday. They postponed the plan because they wanted to limit the impact on area residents, said Panitan Wattanayakorn, the acting government spokesman. The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation in Bangkok said it has asked businesses in the area to shut down until the situation is resolved.
The government said it has been forced to take action after demonstrators disregarded an ultimatum by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to vacate the intersection by Wednesday.
The UDD has turned the posh commercial center into a fortress of tires and bamboo sticks as they continued to demand that Abhisit dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call new elections.
The Red Shirts support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006.”
Who Assassinated Seh Daeng?
When the news about Seh Daeng was hitting the “Head Lines” in global press reports, a great many people asked who killed Seh Daeng. Most people know and agree it was the Establishment, but again, who, in the establishment? It was part of that overall confusion of the time, when there were few answers to what is occurring in Bangkok. Everyone, it seemed, was trying to put the picture together.
And there was a million of pieces to the picture of what was going on in Bangkok. And the entire picture is still not know, part of the long noted, phenomenon, of “The Truth Being Lost to Official Narrative” in Thailand.
For example, if the killer of Seh Daeng was known, perhaps, Seh Daeng death could shed some light on the bigger picture, of what was going on in Thailand. There are many theories!
The far right wing, Bangkok Post, has a theory, and even reported that Seh hDaeng may have been ordered killed, by a Red Shirts leader. Another theory, is that the assassination of Seh Daeng, is the result of two major competing fraction in the Thai military, agreeing to come to peace terms, and the killing of Seh Daeng was to “Ink the Contract in Blood” to stop the division in the Thai military.
- First Theory:
According to pro Elite Bangkok Post theory, there was a split in the leadership of the Red Shirts movement, with those wanting to cut a deal with the Abhisit government and to stop protesting, and those that wanted to continue to protest, so that Abhisit would call for a general election.
Seh Daeng, reportedly, was against cutting a deal and a significant argument erupted among the Red Shirts, where the matter was settled by another red Shirts leader, Arismund, who want to continue the protest. Seh Daeng, indeed, told reporters, after the argument, that the argument nearly erupted in violent, but that no one was ready to confront him. From those basic facts, many have said the Red Shirts killed Seh Daeng, because he was getting to be greatly “Out of Control.”
- Second Theory:
Then on the military fraction cutting a deal, it was about how two main fraction in the Thai military, where the fraction that was kept pinned down for years, would be allowed to rise in rank in the Thai army. The price, would be Seh Daeng’s life.
The rationale was that the fractional of the Thai army, have allowed “Rogue” soldier like Seh Daeng to emerge, weakening the military. So a deal was cut and Seh Daeng, would be killed for peace and unity in the Thai military.
- Third Theory:
One foreign national security analyst said, however, quote:
“The fate of Seh Daeng of the Royal Thai Army is perhaps an extreme example of the pervasive entanglement of the military in Thai politics. Five days before the red-shirt protests ended and downtown Bangkok burned, Seh Daeng was shot in the head by a sniper from buildings high above the red-shirt protest camp. Thai authorities officially deny any involvement but it is widely suspected that the army carried out the targeted assassination of Seh Daeng—the self-declared “commander-in-chief” of the red-shirts protestors.”
Seh Daeng was increasingly identified in the public with the red-shirt protest leaders who, in full military dress, openly criticized the government and commanded security guards at the protest camp. Those security guards are suspected to include former soldiers and former paramilitary border rangers with combat experience.
- Fourth Theory:
This theory says, a police general close to the Nevin fraction, killed Seh Daeng. This theory, sounds a bit too openly “Politicized” as it links Nevin to the assassination of Seh Daeng, when Nevin has become the trouble shooter for Abhisit. So this theory, points Seh daeng death, to Abhisit.
- But which theory is correct?
Please continue reading. The answer to who killed Seh Daeng, is provided.
Seh Daeng Up Close?
At one of the Red Shirts protest gathering, Seh Daeng gave me time for a quick talk during lunch on the side of the street. It was at one of many Red Shirts gathering at the Democracy Monument. Mostly, there are just concrete buildings around the monument and it was a hot area, especially at noon on the side of the street.
I knew I only had at best 20 minute with Seh Deang, at that lunch, so no pleasantry. And I asked Seh Daeng about security. As all around there were gates, to keep the Red Shirts protesters “Caged” in-like, with pro Elite Establishment security forces patrolling the whole Red Shirts protest. There were 1,000s of there security guards, guarding the Red Shirts protest.
- “I sleep in the police traffic boxes with my team, during the protest,” said Seh Daeng, pointing to a small enclosed air-conditioned structure that the police would conduct the traffic lights control from. “How do you sleep in that police box, on a mat on the floor,” I asked Seh Daeng. Seh Daeng said he sleep on a chair that can lean back. “I have slept in small stream in the jungle. A small leaning chair to sleep is luxury,” says Seh Daeng.
“They are not allowed to enter the protest area, that is my responsibility,” says Seh Daeng, of the 1,000s of Elite Establishment security force, patrolling the Red Shirts protest. “We do not want any chances of confrontation,” says Seh Daeng, adding, “They agree to stay on the outside and let us control the inside.”
From that quick lunch with Seh Daeng, I sense Seh Deng, above all, is a professional soldier who knew security issues.”
- But who is Seh Daeng, in his entirely? In the official narrative, like the Wikipedia, it say:
Khattiya Sawasdipol (Thai: ขัตติยะ สวัสดิผล; RTGS: Khattiya Sawatdiphon; June 2, 1951 – May 17, 2010), alias Seh Daeng (Thai: เสธ.แดง; RTGS: Se Daeng; English: Red Commander), was a major general in the Royal Thai Army, assigned to the Internal Security Operations Command. He claimed to have helped the United States spy on North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and to have taken part in the CIA-financed “Secret War” against the communists in the Plain of Jars, in Laos. Khattiya also allegedly disguised himself as a Muslim in order to infiltrate rebel groups in Aceh, Indonesia.
Khattiya was married with a daughter. He wrote several best-sellers in the Thai language describing his claimed adventures in a series called Khom…Seh Daeng (คม…เสธ.แดง). He frequently appeared on television talk shows and had a cult of followers, achieving almost celebrity status. He came into conflict with the Thai police commander, General Seri Temiyavet, during the investigation of a large gambling den in 2006. General Seri filed a libel suit against Khattiya, who was arrested and sentenced to prison for four months. Khattiya subsequently brought a 600 million Baht libel suit against Seri for defamation.
Military career: Khattiya made national news on October 18, 2008, when he announced “he would mobilise government supporters against any military attempt to seize political power.” Khattiya said members of the pro-government Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD) would use petrol bombs against any tanks and military vehicles taking part in a coup attempt.
Because of his comments, Khattiya was reassigned as an aerobics teacher by Gen. Anupong Paochinda, the Thai Army commander. An irritated Khattiya responded by saying, “The army chief wants me to be a presenter leading aerobics dancer. I have prepared one dance. It’s called the ‘throwing-a-hand-grenade’ dance.”
On 14 January 2010, Army Commander Anupong Paochinda ordered a suspension of Khattiya Sawasdipol after an inquiry committee found that Khattiya had openly supported the DAAD, a political pressure group that called for new elections, which breached the principle that military officers do not take sides in politics. The following day, Anupong’s office in the Royal Thai Army Headquarters was attacked by grenades fired from a M79 grenade launcher, leaving the office demolished but no one injured. In the news of the attack, Khattiya was described by BBC as a “renegade Thai general who backs anti-government protesters.” A member of the protesters’ radical wing, he accused the red-shirt leaders – many who then distanced themselves from him – of not being hardline enough.
Thai Army Chief Anupong:
There were reports in the local Thai press that Seh Daeng, went to the Middle East to meet Thaksin, and came out of the meeting, that he will be working for the Thaksin side. Thaksin side is mainly a political party close to him and the Red Shirts movement, a mostly pro Thaksin and pro Democracy movement.
- Long before that meeting between Thaksin and Seh Daeng, Anupong, Thailand’s army chief, had taken an opposite stand, supporting the anti Democracy, Elite Establishment.
As the Yellow Shirts went destabilizing Thailand, Anupong declined to let the military quell the instability, and thus, the government close to Thaksin, teeter on collapse. As that teetering collapse, was attacked by blow after blow by Thailand’s pro Elite Establishment’s various independent units like the courts and the anti corruption body, Anupong stepped in, and cut a deal for Abhisit of the Democrat Party to govern Thailand.
Inside a military camp, Anupong pressured a Thaksin ally, Nevin, to defect Thaksin and support Abhisit as the prime minister, promising that all corruption charges on Nevin, would be dropped. Nevin agreed to Anupong offer, and Abhisit came to power in Thailand.
But Thaksin and his political party and the Red Shirts were still around. And Thaksin is still highly popular with Thais in the E-Sarn and Northern regions of Thailand. The Red Shirts movements have grown to include millions more, mostly grass-roots.
- As all of that was occurring, Seh Daeng was at the height of his popularity, and have reached the status of “Folk Hero” of the Thai military. And Seh Daeng was emerging on the side of democracy, which mostly, supported Thaksin.
Clearly, Seh Daeng and Anupong were on a confrontation path.
In summary, Seh Daeng was going to help Thaksin and the Red Shirts, bring down the Abhisit government, that Anupong put together. Anupong, clearly, must get rid of Seh Daeng.
- Also a blog, Political Chits Chat says:
Elite Establishment’s Propaganda?
The situation between Seh Daeng and the Thai Army Chief, Anupong, was going from bad to worse, with Seh Daeng saying a bomb will be going off in Thailand at this and that place and at this and that time.
And like clock work, the bombing would go off as Seh Daeng says in advance that it would. As relations tanked, Seh Daeng started to make more and more challenges to Anupong. Finally, Anupong demoted Seh Daeng to teach aerobics. here is where many national security analysts says, the situation in Thailand, was heading for “Civil war.”
- One national security related blog, part of the Thai Elite Establishment, wrote:
Certainly, multiple incidents involving M79 grenades, gunfire exchanges with assault rifles and security tactics in recent weeks suggest that trained security personnel, whether serving, dismissed or retired, are implicated in such violent actions in defence of the red-shirt protest predominantly against the security forces.
Seh Daeng’s political profile is not new. In late 2008, Seh Daeng was openly supportive of the red-shirt movement after the changes of government following the 2006 military coup.
Following public suggestions by the Army Commander, General Anupong Paojinda, that the then pro-Thaksin prime minister should resign, Seh Daeng called for Gen. Anupong’s resignation. He also reportedly led the training of dismissed paramilitary rangers as a “people’s army” to launch counter-coup operations in defence of the civilian government.
Questions were raised why disciplinary actions were not been taken against a serving military officer. It was not until January 2010, however, that Seh Daeng was suspended for his political “meddling.” The following day, General Anupong’s office was hit in a M79 grenade attack, which Seh Daeng had alluded to own his own website. As a suspended military officer, Seh Daeng held overseas meetings with fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and emerged as a leading red-shirt supporter.
It was not until May 9, 2010 that Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon officially submitted his request to the Prime Minister recommending the dismissal of Seh Daeng from duty. While the final decision, and the ruling on the removal of military rank, is that of the King, it remains unclear whether the Prime Minister had submitted the recommended actions to the King at the time of his assassination on May 13. It is clear, however, that any decision on Seh Daeng’s dismissal would have been politically controversial and wholly divisive.
In the days prior to Seh Daeng’s assassination, moderate red-shirt leaders had moved closer to agreement with the Thai government proposal for a reconciliation road-map including elections. Hardline red-shirt leaders refused to compromise, including Seh Daeng who stated his intention to assume command of the red-shirts in the event of the withdrawal of civilian leaders. Seh Daeng was assassinated the following day, provoking a violent reaction in which more than 50 people lost their lives over a period of five days.
The targeted assassination effectively decapitated the black-shirted security group in its operations which presented no organized resistance to advancing military columns. The action also opened the resumption of the preferred negotiated settlement with the moderate red-shirt leadership at the last hour. Due to the intransigence of other hard-line red-shirt leaders, however, this did not transpire. Nevertheless, a significantly higher loss of life and more widespread conflict was arguably averted in the elimination of a single renegade military officer entangled in political activities and allegedly political violence.
Seh Daeng was, perhaps, an extreme example but the question arises as to what extent the Thai security forces as institutions, in factions or as individuals, remain active in the broad spectrum of Thailand’s colourful politics, particularly at a time of deep political division and upcoming elections. Indeed, security sector reforms, disciplinary procedures and judicial prosecution, as necessary, would be preferable in eliminating the involvement of the security forces in Thai political life.
Seh Daeng & Red Shirts Leaders
While those that are pro Thai Elite Establishment, such as the above national security analyst, would bunch Seh Daeng and the Red Shirts, into a “Uniform Movement” with “Close Relationship” the fact is there is little that is “Cohesive” between Seh Daeng and the Red Shirts leaders.
- There had been a string of incidents of news of problems between Sed Daeng are the Red Shirts leaders.
In one well know incident, at Chula Hospital, Seh Daeng ordered a gate of the hospital, that opened into the Red Shirts protest area closed, because of security concern, that the military will use the access, to attack the Red Shirts protest.
That closure of the gate to Chula Hospital, was greatly reported by the mostly anti Thaksin and pro Elite Establishment, Thai press. That report by the Thai press, was mostly propaganda about how closure of the one access, would hurt the Chula Hospital operation, when the fact is, there are many other access point to the Chula Hospital.
However, the Red Shirts leaders confronted Seh Daeng, for days, demanding that the gate to the Chula Hospital be opened.
Finally, local press reports, one of the Red Shirts leader, walking to the gate of the Chula Hospital that was blocked, with a group of supporters, and “Tore Away” all the materials that were blocking the Chula Hospital gate.
- Of that Red Shirts leader action, in tearing down the blocking of the Chula Hospital Gate, Seh Daeng said, quote: “Inside Chula Hospital are already soldiers being stationed and now they can simply walk inside the protest area at will.” That was all that Seh Daeng did, said a few words, of his conflict with the Red Shirts leader situation.
The Red Shirts leaders, in fact, says it a great deal that, quote: “Seh Daeng have co-opted the Red Shirts protest, without official Red Shirts movement sanction of his involvement.”
The Unpredictable Element
During the first week of the Red Shirts protest at Rajprasong, Seh Daeng had fallen out with the Red Shirts leaders. Local press even report Seh Daeng ridiculing the Red Shirts for their lackluster leadership. The Chula Hospital gate problem was only one incident.
The Red Shirts leaders, was monitoring foreign press, and found that She dang involvement, in co-opting, the protest, have given the Red Shirts protest, a violent reputation. In fact, the Abhisit government was calling the Red Shirts protesters, “Terrorist.”
Subsequently, the Red Shirts leaders, began to put more distance between them and Seh Daeng, with some press reporting that the Red Shirts have made request to Seh Daeng to “Tone Down” the “Defense Activities” news, as many news and image coming out of the Red Shirts protest, were about Seh Daeng, and his “Black Shirts.”
Seh Daeng, appeared to agreed somewhat, and made claims to the press, that so called ‘Ronin Warriors’ or independent soldiers for hire, have been fighting during many clashes and also killed soldiers, and at the same time, Seh Daeng denies any involvement.
Seh Daeng also showed evidence, being pictures, to the press, of the so called “Black Shirts” of operating with the Thai military of Anupong.
But relation with the Red Shirts continued to sour. Local press, reports rumors, that Seh Daeng had officially cut ties with the Red Shirts leaders. Local press even reported, that Seh Daeng have called for the Red Shirts hardliners Arisaman Pongruengrong, Suporn Atthawong and Kwanchai Praiphana to take the helm of the movement. Even Thaksin was drawn into the middle of the problems between Seh Daeng and the Red Shirts leaders.
One foreign journalist says however:
- Some might question the public split between the red leaders and ‘Seh Daeng’, mirroring a Thai saying “แยกกันเดิน รวมกันตี” (walking different routes, striking together). He is now the unpredictable element of the red movement, since he pretty much has his own agenda to keep the protests going and is not afraid to turn onto his allies. And even if he denies any involvement in any of the violent clashes or any of the few dozens grenade attacks, with his defiant and aggressive stance he remains a controversial figure to say the least. His intentions are clear: to topple the current government and get redemption for his fall from grace two years ago. The fact that Khattiya is still running around the red zone and apparently is still able to command a group of loyal people shows that no one, neither the government, the army or the red leaders themselves would get rid of him easily.
The question is: what makes him untouchable?
Imaging yourself, for years, walking into anyone of Thailand’s about 7,000 Seven Eleven store, and there was, not just one, but several books depicting you, as a “Hero” on the shelf for sale? That happened to Seh Daeng, with the images of himself, a “Hero” of epic proportions.
- One foreign journalist wrote:
The general has fought on many fronts, but his new enemies are the Thai government and its army. Seh Deaeng and his cohorts are at the heart of a month-long dispute with the government that has erupted into violence on several occasions, killing dozens and injuring almost 1000 people in Bangkok.
Seh Daeng sees parallels between Thailand’s Red Shirts and the pro-democracy protesters in China in 1989. “It’s like Tienanmen in China. The government wants to send the tanks against its own people. In this country, the elite and the army are partial and unfair… Instead of accusing the Red Shirts, the government should investigate its own ranks and its own army to find the real bombers and the killers.”
The self-proclaimed “commander” of the Red Shirts also draws parallels between his goals and those of the French Revolutionaries. “Here, it’s just like Paris two centuries ago, at the Bastille.”
Not everyone shares Seh’s heroic image of himself. Some Thais view him as a terrorist. But he doesn’t seem worried, telling Payen, “There are many snipers here. But I’m not afraid. I don’t care!”
While Seh Daeng had problem with the leadership of the Red Shirts, he was indeed a “Hero” with the grass-roots Thais that made-up the Red Shirts movement.
There were fundamentally two reasons as to why Seh Daeng was able to “Co-opt” the Red Shirts movement. First, again, he went to Thaksin in the Middle East and had an agreement, and secondly, that being a “hero” of the Thais that made up the Red Shirts movement.
For years and years, for example, at nearly every Red Shirts gathering, Seh Daeng would show up, in full military uniform, and mingle with the Thais that went to the gathering. Seh Daeng would give out his signature at such a gathering, and walk among the gathering, talking and greeting the Thais.
- There was no denying the fact; Seh Daeng is highly popular with the Red Shirts. And this made the situation very complicated for both Thaksin and the Red Shirts leaders, as Seh Daeng had an almost “Free Hand” to do anything he wants. Seh Daeng appears to report to no one and accountable to no one.
How was Seh Daeng, going to function, as part of the “Official” Red Shirts movement, is a question, no one had the answer. The agreement seemed to be, Seh Daeng was an “Official” leader of the movement, but at the same time “Un-Official” and in-formal. Seh Daeng relation to the Red Shirts appear to be, based mostly, on “A Personal Ad Hoc Level.”
Speechless On Seh Daeng Death
The death of the Red Shirts protest security chief, Seh Daeng left many speechless. What will occur next, seems to be what everyone was asking.
- One foreign observer, said:
Where will the protests go after his death? Some speculate that it will get worse as he was such a big figure among the opposition group. Loyal supporters of Seh Daeng even call themselves the “ Black Shirts”, and they say they are willing to do more- to even use violence to get their revenge and get attain their goal. Although some loved Seh Daeng, others thought that he was an extremist- he was very controlling.
During an email conversation I had with a friend in Bangkok, ( a friend which does not want to be named) he wrote, “ Although, I feel sorry for the opposition group, I am not happy with the leaders of the Reds.” He thought that the leaders were “opportunists” ( his own words), only trying to seek their own gain and power.
It is reported that more than 250 people have been wounded or injured. The Thai military has given a deadline of mid-afternoon for protesters to leave their camp site in the middle of Bangkok. The military has especially warned women and children to leave the site. The Red Cross has gone into the camp – allotting food and aid.
Thorn in Abhisit’s Political Life
As of this report, years after Seh Daeng was killed, in March of 2013, the Thai courts have found, that many protesters were killed by the Thai military without the involvement of the infamous “Black Shirt” that allegedly worked for Seh Daeng.
In fact, the court says, many protesters were shot at the head by sniper, with no Black Shirts in the area.
And the court also said that the burning of Bangkok, like Central World, was not an act of terrorism, but of rioting. And some Red Shirts protesters that were arrested for burning Central Worlds and in jail for terrorism, were not involved with the burning.
But on May, 2010, in the aftermath of outbreaks of violence, prime minister Abhisit has specifically named Seh Daeng as “a mastermind against the reconciliation road map” and a “chief terrorist” who “did not want the protests to end“.
According to Abhisit’s Democrat Party and the Yellow Shirts, Seh Daeng is, quote: “One of the most notorious hardliners in the red shirt movement”.
- Seh Daeng has a long track record of standing against Abhisit’s interest.
During the 2008 occupy of Government House and shutting down the airport by the yellow shirted PAD, and was supported by Abhisit’s Democrat Party, Seh Daeng was a supporter of the pro-Thaksin governments of Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat.
- As the Yellow Shirts ran wild in Bangkok, gunning down their enemies, Seh Daeng, was said to have led his black-claded militia group to counter the PAD guards. Some rumor says, already back then he showed his eccentric side and revealed that one of the tactic to defeat the yellow shirts is to “drop snakes on them from helicopters. “
During the change of power for Thailand to be govern by Abhisit, arranged by the Thai army chief, Anupong, inside a military camp, Seh Daeng was demoted to an aerobics instructor. Abhisit, perhaps concern, about retaliation by Seh Daeng, began questioning what Seh Daeng said and done, in public to journalist, often.
For example, Abhisit would mention that Seh Daeng would talk about bombing taking place here and there in the future. Abhisit also pointed to Seh Daeng unauthorized trip to Cambodia in order to meet Thaksin, also of pictures of Seh Daeng visit to Thaksin in Dubai.
Clearly, Abhisit was trying to link bombing incidents in Bangkok, to Seh Daeng as being responsible, as obviously, how could Seh Daeng known about the bombings in advance. Abhisit, was also trying to link the bombing to Thaksin, as the bombing having been approved by Thaksin for Seh Daeng to carry out.
Indeed, Seh Daeng, perhaps from those meeting with Thaksin and being demoted by Anupong, became greatly involved with the Red Shirts movement, as its security chief.
Shadow Spurs Speculation
It seems that everything about Seh Daeng, is shrouded in mystery. For example, how did he know of all the bombings in Bangkok in advance.
- “I deny!” said Seh Daeng. And then with a laugh, when asked about the dozens of bombings that have set Bangkok on edge and about the mysterious black-shirted, “No one ever saw me.”
Seh Daeng involvement with the protest movement underlines fractures in the military, and more broadly in Thai society, after years of political turmoil, where Seh Daeng says, many of the Red Shirts protesters, quote: “Believe that because Seh Daeng is here they won’t die.” And with talk among Red Shirts of stopping the protest and calling for an election from Abhisit, Seh Daeng says: quote: “Just stop? Compromise? All these people, the hard core, they want to stay longer.”
“That’s why everywhere I go people cheer me and ask for my autograph,” said Seh Daeng.
- One blogger noted:
On Saturday I blogged about a Maj. General in the Thai army who, press reports indicated, had vowed to wage war against the Thai military. As I continued updating the post over the weekend, the story kept getting stranger.
Today the Bangkok Post has an editorial concerning Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol, alias Seh Daeng. The newspaper believes Seh Daeng may have fired a grenade into the office of the Thai army chief Anupong:
Like a dead elephant which cannot be covered up just by lotus leaves, as an old Thai saying goes, the recent grenade attack on the office of army chief Anupong Paojinda cannot be covered up by the army. The blatant incident took place on the night of Jan 14, but it was a week later before it was made public and confirmed by the army although the prying noses of the press smelled a rat a few days after the attack thanks to the webboard of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, alias Seh Daeng, an army specialist, in which he bragged, without elaboration, about a recent grenade attack
Why the cover-up? One assumption is that the blatant incident would be too embarrassing to bear for Gen Anupong if it was known to the public because it could be seen as a big slap to the face. Another possible assumption is that the army chief himself might not have wanted to bother with Seh Daeng, who emerged as the prime suspect since the latter had openly made threats against the general. After all, no one was hurt. And the attack might not be meant to cause bodily harm but to intimidate.
Seh Daeng, many observer of Thailand have said, 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 Elite Establishment.
As Seh Daeng commented how working with the protesters was a challenge and about how it was different from his previous military missions. Sed Daeng also described himself as leading a “People’s Army” that was bracing for a crackdown by the military. This clash would be “free form,” said Seh Daeng, adding, “There are no rules.”
So did Seh Daeng been so close to what occurred in Bangkok, in those chaotic days, to even know approximately when bombs were going to, go off. One theory, that says, Seh Daeng is not involved directly, says Seh Daeng is very close to many fractions of power in Thailand, and thus his intelligence is cutting-edge.
Hurt & Reconciliation
In the Abhisit’s crack-down, about 100 protesters were killed, many with sniper bullet to the head, in execution style assassination.
The Thai courts, looking into the cases, said many of the cases of the protesters killed, was conducted by the military, and there were no so called “Black Shirt” in the area.
That shot to the head of protesters, is similar to how Seh Daeng was killed.
As hard as it is to forget the past and move forward, recently, in Thailand there has been talk of “Reconciliation.”
- Seh Daeng daughter, Kattiya said her father did not die during the dispersal of protesters but as a result of premeditated murder. Whoever committed the offence must face legal action. Kittiya agreed, however, with the latest suggestion between the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts to issue two amnesty bills – one of which would pardon protesters who broke the security laws – because she believed they had joined political rallies with good intent.
Democrat Party, party list MP Trairong Suwankhiri admitted he had discussed the amnesty bills with Deputy House Speaker Charoen Chankomol, and he had already reported to Democrat Party leader Abhisit, and Democrat Party adviser Banyat Bantadthan about the talks.
Trairong said he and Charoen broached two issues: first, to pardon those who committed security law breaches, which he believed every party agreed with; and second, to set up a committee to decide which particular individuals should be pardoned. He said it was now up to the party to decide on the matter.
Seh Daeng’s Legacy
Seh Daeng, once became involved with the Red Shirts movement, went to most of the movement’s gathering. And at all of them, Seh Daeng would say good bye, to people who asked him for his autograph, by giving them a military salute.
The Red Shirts, being a movement of the grass-roots poor Thais, most of them, have never been saluted by a ranking Thai military general. There was a great deal of talk with the Red Shirts, about that “Salute” by Seh Daeng, a being very significant and symbolic.
- The symbol and significant of the “Salute” is that it was a sign of the future, of a Thai military, that belongs to “The People.” In fact, Seh Daeng got the grass-roots in the Red Shirts movement, to start writing, talking and discussing, “The People’s Army.”
In Thailand’s history, there were few soldiers of Seh Daeng’s caliber. His military exploits, before entering politics, and books about them made him a “Military Super-Hero.” And his involvement in politics, on the side of the grass-roots, made him a “Folk Hero.”
His activities, even resulted in what the pro Elite Establishment Bangkok Post called, potential for a coup.
- The Red Shirts movement that Seh Daeng tried to protect, with the crack-down that came after the Seh Daeng was taken out of the picture with the assassination, suffered about 100 death. Many of the Red Shirts were killed with sniper shot to the head. Many of those that survived were called “Terrorist” and thrown in jail.
The situation looked grim for Thailand’s pro Democracy movement. Then an election took place, and the Red Shirts won.
Today, even Seh Daeng daughter, is a minister of the people, who sits inside the parliament, as part of the government.