Asia-Pacific

Thousands of red-shirts mourn rogue Thai general

Supporters hold up a cutout of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdiphol during his cremation ceremony
Image caption Thousands of red-shirts attended the cremation of 'Commander Red'

Thousands of mourners have attended the funeral of renegade Thai general Khattiya Sawasdipol, who was shot in May as he backed anti-government protesters in Bangkok.

Up to 1,000 police were deployed in the capital but the cremation at a Buddhist temple passed off peacefully.

Maj Gen Khattiya, known as Seh Daeng (Commander Red), was shot by an unknown gunman as he spoke to a US journalist.

Ninety people died during the bitter nine-week political protest.

The demonstrators, known as red-shirts, occupied large parts of Bangkok. They demanded early elections, claiming that the current government came to power illegally.

More than 1,400 people were injured in the bloody confrontation, which ended when troops entered the protesters' heavily-fortified camp.

The government remains in place. Several red-shirt leaders are in detention and others remain on the run, wanted on terrorism charges.

'Security adviser'

Thousands of red-shirts attended the cremation of Seh Daeng, along with some government and opposition politicians and senior military and police officers, Thai media reported.

Many mourners wore black shirts with a spray-painted picture of the renegade general.

The ceremony took place at a Buddhist temple close to where the red-shirt protest started.

Senior police officer Maj Gen Wichai Sangprapai said it was the largest gathering of red-shirts since the government crackdown on their protest on 19 May.

About 800 police were deployed, mainly from riot control units.

Seh Daeng was shot in the head on 13 May as he spoke to a New York Times journalist within the protesters' rally site.

He was treated in hospital but died a few days later.

It is not clear who shot him, but some among the protesters were quick to blame army snipers. The military has denied any involvement.

His shooting marked the beginning of fierce clashes between soldiers and protesters that continued until the troops entered the camp on 19 May.

Correspondents say Seh Daeng saw himself as "security adviser" to the red-shirt opposition movement.

A loyal supporter of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - who was ousted in a 2006 coup, he was allied to the more radical wing of the broad protest movement.

The protesters said the current government is illegitimate, having come to power in a parliamentary vote after a pro-Thaksin government was forced to step down in December 2008 by a Constitutional Court ruling that it had committed electoral fraud.