BANGKOK - He boasts of killing 20 Thai communists and fondly recalls working with the United States Central Intelligence Agency, but denies suspicions that he leads a death squad that is involved in bombings and shootings to help the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protest group cripple Bangkok.
Major General Khattiya "Seh Daeng" Sawatdiphol is one of the biggest reasons the government and military are afraid to attack the red shirts' barricades and clear them from Bangkok's streets.
He is wanted for questioning about a mysterious alleged death squad known as "Ronin Warriors". The government and military blame them for several recent killings stemming from dozens of unsolved M-79 grenade attacks on banks, electric pylons, army positions, an airport fuel depot, government offices and a crowd of people on Silom Road one evening near the red shirts' barricades.
In February, he boasted of training hundreds of former Ranger paramilitary troops to protect the Reds. "If the state clamps down on us, we have to defend ourselves. We and our red shirt brothers may need to resort to weapons," he told reporters at the time.
"If the army uses war weapons, the police at the front will turn around against the army, because the police are with the reds. In that event, the Ronin will have an advantage."
"Everybody thinks that I am the Ronin leader, the samurai. I deny. I deny. I am not a Ronin," Khattiya said during the interview. "I only want to fight with peaceful means."
Some speculate Khattiya is using the reds so a cabal of rightwing military officers and retirees can seize power. Police jailed him for a couple of days in March for alleged weapons possession and helping a criminal suspect escape.
On nationwide TV, Abhisit publicly named Khattiya for the first time on April 25 and said without elaborating: "Everything is connected. All names like Seh Daeng [Khattiya]" and others were "not cases of coincidence".
Other red leaders have distanced themselves from Khattiya, fearing his image is too violent. In turn, he has condemned them for recently retracting a barricade from a hospital.
Khattiya said he had a message for US President Barack Obama: "This government is murdering people. Bring the United Nations in, because it is going to be like Pol Pot, Mussolini and Hitler."
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