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    Posted June 23, 2010 by
    palrak
    Location
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Crisis in Bangkok

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    Thai people in the Royal Cremation of Khattiya Sawasdipol

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     palrak joined thousands of other supporters Tuesday for the cremation of a rogue general shot during opposition protests in May. He says people from all around the country flocked to the Sommanas Viharn Temple in Bangkok, Thailand, to show their respects and leave flowers.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    Thousands of Thai "Red Shirts" turned out Tuesday for the  cremation of a rogue general shot during opposition protests, staging  their biggest gathering since the army quashed their rally last month.

    Over  800 police officers were deployed to oversee the ceremony for Major  General Khattiya Sawasdipol, an unofficial security adviser to the Red  Shirts who was shot in the head while being interviewed by a foreign  reporter.

    It remains unclear who killed the outspoken general.  His supporters say he was targeted by a sniper, but the army has denied  any involvement.

    Thousands of mourners massed at a temple close  to the heart of Bangkok's government district ahead of the cremation,  some wearing T-shirts bearing the image of the slain general, better  known by his nom-de-guerre Seh Daeng.

    Saowaros Songcharoen, a  58-year-old housewife from Ayutthaya Province in central Thailand, said  she could not forgive the government for the bloodshed.

    "They  have stamped on democracy," she said, proudly showing a picture of  herself and the general on her mobile telephone. "If our generation  cannot win, our children will carry on fighting."

    Police said up  to 10,000 Red Shirts were expected for the evening ceremony, but they  were hopeful it would pass peacefully.

    Most of the top Red Shirt  leaders are in jail or wanted on terrorism charges for their roles in  the two-month-long mass rally that ended with a deadly army crackdown on  the demonstrators' encampment in central Bangkok on May 19.

    The  Red Shirts were campaigning for elections they hoped would oust the  government, which they view as undemocratic because it came to power  with the backing of the army after a court ruling threw out the previous  administration.

    Ninety people died and nearly 1,900 were injured  in clashes between security forces and protesters in Bangkok, which has  been calm for the past month.

    Rekindling jitters in the city,  however, a blast occurred Tuesday outside the headquarters of a  political party that belongs to the ruling coalition.

    Police were  waiting to question an injured man who was suspected of being behind  the explosion, which was apparently caused by a makeshift bomb inside a  gas canister. No one else was hurt.

    Bangkok is still under  emergency laws banning public gatherings of more than five people but  police did not try to stop Red Shirts paying their last respects to  Khattiya.

    Despite his difficult relationship with the state, he  was to be given a royal cremation in recognition of his senior army  rank.

    The 58-year-old was suspended from duty in January and  faced dismissal from the Thai army after a panel found him guilty of  military crimes.

    But he rose to prominence during the street  protests and was often surrounded by autograph-seeking fans during his  walks through the rally site, where vendors displayed his best-selling  books about his jungle adventures.

    He antagonised the authorities  by expressing loyalty to the Red Shirts' hero, fugitive former premier  Thaksin Shinawatra, and was accused of having a hand in dozens of  unsolved grenade attacks in Bangkok.

    Khattiya denied involvement  in the violence, saying he concentrated on inspecting the barricades of  fuel-soaked tyres, bamboo poles and razor wire that he helped to erect  around the perimeter of the rally site.

    After the Red Shirt  leaders surrendered and asked their supporters to go home, enraged  hardcore demonstrators went on a rampage of arson, setting fire to  dozens of buildings around the capital.

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