Khattiya Sawasdipol

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Khattiya Sawasdipol
2010 0522 Chiang Mai unrest 01.JPG
Nickname(s) Seh Daeng
Born (1951-06-02)June 2, 1951
Died May 17, 2010(2010-05-17) (aged 58)
Allegiance  Thailand
Service/branch Royal Thai Army
Rank RTA OF-7 (Major General).svgMajor General
Commands held Internal Security Operations

Khattiya Sawasdipol (Thai: ขัตติยะ สวัสดิผล; rtgsKhattiya Sawatdiphon; June 2, 1951 – May 17, 2010), alias Seh Daeng (Thai: เสธ.แดง; rtgsSe Daeng; English: Commander "Red"), was a major general in the Royal Thai Army, assigned to the Internal Security Operations Command, political activist, and book author.

He became publicly known for his role in the 1970s campaign against communist insurgents in Northeastern Thailand. After the 2006 coup d'état that toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, he joined the "Red Shirts" movement and led its most intransigent and militant wing. He was killed, apparently by a sniper, while giving an interview during the May 2010 unrest in Bangkok.

Personal life[edit]

Khattiya was born in Photharam District, Ratchaburi Province. His father was an army captain and he had three younger sisters. Khattiya was married to navy Captain Janthra Sawasdipol, who died of cancer in 2006. One of their daughters, Khattiyah Sawasdipol, succeeded her father as a "Red Shirts" activist and was elected to parliament on the Pheu Thai Party's list in 2011.

Military career[edit]

After graduating from Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School (class 11), and Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (class 22), Khattiya Sawasdipol began his army service in 1971. He was assigned to the paramilitary unit of Thahan Phran ("Rangers"), who viciously fought against communist insurgents during the 1970s.

In his memoirs that became bestsellers in Thailand, Khattiya claimed to have taken part in CIA operations in Laos in Cambodia during the Second Indochina War and to have supported pro-American Hmong General Vang Pao in the Laotian Civil War. He reported that he took part in the assassination of 20 communists in 1976. Moreover, he described how he supposedly infiltrated jihadi groups in Aceh and Malaysia during the 1990s.[1]

Besides publishing a series of books ("Khom...Seh Daeng") about his asserted adventures, that became bestsellers in Thailand,[2][3] 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.[4] Khattiya subsequently brought a 600 million Baht libel suit against Seri for defamation.[citation needed]

Political activity[edit]

Khattiya was a supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and an opponent of the 19 September 2006 military coup d'état. He joined the "Red Shirts" movement that is considered close to Thaksin, protested against the coup and the military-backed government that took power afterwards. The pro-Thaksin camp returned to power after their electoral victory in January 2008, and Khattiya vowed to protect it against a potential new coup attempt—if necessary with military force. On 18 October 2008, during the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD, or "Yellow Shirts") protests against the government, he announced to "mobilise government supporters against any military attempt to seize political power", threatening that 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.[5]

Because of his comments, the commander-in-chief of the Thai army, General Anupong Paochinda, removed Khattiya from his post in the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and reassigned him to be the army's aerobics instructor. Khattiya felt ridiculed and humiliated by this transfer and answered that he had prepared a dance called the "throwing-a-hand-grenade dance".[2][6] Khattiya organised the "Ronin Warriors", a group of a few dozens of armed militants to fight against "Yellow Shirts". He boasted of his fighters terrorising the protesters using M79 grenade launchers, killing one PAD guard and injuring 40.[7]

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 openly take sides in politics.[8] The following day, Anupong's office in the Royal Thai Army Headquarters was attacked by high explosive rounds fired from a M79 grenade launcher, leaving the office demolished but no one injured.[9] Khattiya however denied responsibility for the attack.[7]

In the news of the attack, Khattiya was described by BBC as a "renegade Thai general who backs anti-government protesters."[10] 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. During the red shirt occupation of Ratchaprasong, he expressed himself ready to lead his men into combat against the Thai army, if it dared to try to break up the protests by force[11]


On the evening of May 13, 2010, Khattiya Sawasdipol was shot in the head, apparently by a sniper, at the intersection of the Sala Daeng BTS station, as he was being interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times.[12] Critically wounded, he was admitted to Huachiew hospital. On May 16, 2010, he suffered renal failure and underwent dialysis.[13][14] 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.[15][16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Obituary: Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol", The Telegraph, 19 May 2010 
  2. ^ a b "Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, Thailand's Braveheart, injured in riots", The Times, 13 May 2010 
  3. ^ Tom Fawthrop (17 May 2010), "Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol obituary", Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol obituary 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Salang revives threat", The Sunday Nation, 19 October 2008 
  6. ^ Cropley, Ed (21 November 2008). "Maverick Thai general does the hand-grenade waltz". Reuters. 
  7. ^ a b Descent into Chaos: Thailand’s 2010 Red Shirt Protests and the Government Crackdown (PDF), Human Rights Watch, May 2011, p. 77, ISBN 1-56432-764-7 
  8. ^ The Nation; 2010, 14 January ; Online.
  9. ^ Thai Rath; 2010, 21 January.
  10. ^ "Pro-protest Thailand general shot". BBC News. 13 May 2010. 
  11. ^ "Thai red-shirt supporter Gen Khattiya shot". BBC News. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  12. ^ Fuller, Thomas; Mydans, Seth (13 May 2010). "Thai General Shot; Army Moves to Face Protesters". The New York Times. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Seh Daeng pronounced dead at 9:20 am". The Nation. 17 May 2010. 
  16. ^ "Seh Daeng pronounced dead". Bangkok Post. 17 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "Thai renegade "Red" general dead: emergency services". Bangkok, Thailand: Channel NewsAsia. AFP/vm. 17 May 2010. 


  • Post Today. (2008, 3 September). Anupong say 'Stop this civil war.' Extra page 2.
  • Thai Rath. (2010, 21 January). Army Commander's office at the RTA Headquarters bombed. [Online]. Available: <click>. (Accessed: 21 January 2010).
  • The Nation. (2010, 14 January). Khattiya to cease his activities. [Online]. Available: <click>. (Accessed: 21 January 2010).
  • The Nation. (2010, 17 May). Seh Daeng pronounced dead at 9:20 am. [Online]. Available: <click>. (Accessed: 17 May 2010).

External links[edit]

  • FROM THE BARRACKS: 'Seh Daeng' - a clowning soldier not to be laughed at (retrieved 8:50 PM 11/27/2008). The article says that "his only daughter, Khattiyar, 27, ironically is an ardent supporter of the PAD.... But he was not prepared to go soft on the PAD - believing that one can have another daughter but a shattered nation cannot be rebuilt." [dead link]
  • TRC explains 'men in black' connection