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Cheers, rage at renegade Thai general's funeral

world Updated: May 17, 2010 20:48 IST
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Hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral on Monday of a renegade general allied with "Red Shirt" protesters who was shot dead last week, in a ceremony that mingled cheers, tears and rage.

Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, known as Seh Daeng, or "Commander Red", was shot in the head on Thursday night during an interview with a foreign reporter near to where thousands of anti-government protesters have been camped for weeks.

"I loved Seh Daeng. He was fair and just," said a mourner named Panitha at the traditional Buddhist funeral, paid for by the royal family, at a pagoda in Bangkok's historic district, hours after his death in hospital aged 58.

The crowd cheered the arrival of their slain hero, who was dressed in his trademark camouflage jungle hat, then began weeping as the service commenced.

The mood later turned to rage and mourners tore apart bouquets sent by the Thai military and a pro-establishment television station.

The outspoken general had been in intensive care after the shooting, which coincided with the start of a government effort to seal off the Red Shirts' protest site by cutting power and blocking roads.

As part of the operation, the army had warned it would deploy snipers. However the military denied shooting the general and it remains unclear who shot him.

In the three days since his shooting, 34 civilians and one member of the military have died in clashes between Red Shirts and troops on the fringes of the demonstrators' camp.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had accused Seh Daeng -- who was suspended from duty in January -- of trying to prevent an end to the demonstrations.