First, gunmen behind the assassination attempt must be caught and then the masterminds
The masterminds who were involved in the assassination plot against Sondhi Limthongkul must be feeling nervous. They could not have thought that Sondhi, the outspoken leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, would have survived their almost perfect plot to have him killed.
More than 200 cartridges have been found at the crime site in front of Wat Iamvoranuj and a Caltex petrol station in the Bangkhunphrom area of Bangkok. Miraculously, Sondhi survived the brutal attack. His driver and bodyguard also survived the daring shooting, which took place during the State of Emergency in Bangkok.
As Sondhi is about to press for his case and the police investigators are zooming in on this high-profile political assassination plot, the masterminds would not he having any peace of mind as they had not prepared any fall-back position.
Police investigators believe that at least four to five pick-up trucks carrying at least 12 gunmen were involved in the shooting on Sondhi on April 17, four days after the Songkran turmoil. Then Bangkok was brought to a grinding halt by the riots from the red-shirted protesters, who supported ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It was the most violent scene since the May tragedy in 1992. The police investigators now look confident that they will be able to arrest the suspected gunmen over the next few weeks. They now know the identities of several of the suspected gunmen, who serve in the military.
Sondhi stayed in hospital for almost a fortnight. Doctors removed iron shrapnel from his head. He has been discharged with a rather clean bill of health. He could vividly remember the faces of the gunmen who took aim at him with their weapons. The way they shot their weapons showed that they were professionals and well-trained. Only police or military officers could hold the weapons with the correct posture and shoot into the target in Sondhi’s van. Somehow the hail of bullets just flew past Sondhi. This has prompted many of the PAD leader’s supporters to superstitiously believe that a mystic power protected him. The probability of Sondhi surviving was less than 1 per cent.
Since Sondhi has good political connections, he has been told about the masterminds involved in the assassination plot. He would not hold back his punches now because his enemies were resorting to violent attacks.
He came out to give a hint that a lady working for the royalty was believed to have been involved in the plot. Somehow, philanthropist Thanpuying Viriya Chavakul has come out to deny any role. The Thai public is wondering why Thanpuying Viriya has to come out with the denial when there are probably hundreds of ladies or female courtiers working for the royalty.
Thanpuying Viriya said although Sondhi has been critical or sarcastic towards her, she never had any idea of hurting him. She said she has inherited so large a fortune that she would not pay any attention to what Sondhi said about her.
Yesterday, Sondhi held a news conference to tell it all. He had postponed the conference from Friday to yesterday on a recommendation from the doctors, who would like him to take more rest. Sondhi said events pointed to Thanpuying Viriya, General Prawit Wongsuwan, the defence minister, and General Anupong Paochinda, the army chief. But they all have come out to deny any role.
Sondhi played around with the Thai language while taking potshots at certain figures. “I would like to clarify that I do not believe these people are the masterminds because they have all come out with their denials. Particularly, Khun Viriya Chaovakul has raucously denied any role,” Sondhi said. “But I would like to say one thing in my opinion, and this is an assumption, an assumption, which is not true, if it is true, then I have no ill feeling towards her. I have forgiven her…
“Khun Viriya has come out to say that she had not been involved with [the assassination plot] and I am so glad that she was not involved. But I would like to give a warning, which is the ultimate truth, that we can tell a lie to anybody, but we can’t tell a lie to ourselves. The conscience will be with us until the day we pass away from this world. If we do something wrong, we might die in the most torturous way. So I am very glad that Khun Viriya has denied that she was not involved. I would like to give her a blessing.”
The burden now falls on the police investigators, who are under pressure to nab the suspected gunmen. They are now believed to be living in fear because they could be killed to prevent the investigators from tracing the masterminds.
Pol General Thanee Somboonsap is known as a straightforward senior police officer. He is also believed to be ready to arrest the gunmen over the next few weeks as many of them have been identified.
An assassination plot of this magnitude cannot be held in secret. For it took place during the State of Emergency.
Sondhi’s life is still not safe. He has chosen to go abroad during this time to give the police investigators all the freedom to pursue the case. This episode demonstrates that the Thai political turmoil is far from over as the spectre of violence appears to intensify.
By The Nation
Published on May 4, 2009
Police Not Confirm if Soldiers Mastermind Assassination of Yellow-Shirt Leader
Police have not concluded that soldiers are behind the assassination attempt on the core yellow-shirt leader.
Regarding the idea of Sondhi Limthongkul, key leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, that the assassination attempt on him was the work of soldiers, Police Colonel Preecha Timamontri , Chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s Investigation and Interrogation Center, said that the idea was only an assumption and the police have not concluded that soldiers were behind the operation.
Preecha added that the police can not confirm this idea unless they have sufficient evidence. He insists that the case is still on-going and the police will work their best to find the wrongdoers.
The police believe that after Sondhi’s declaration, people will come forward with more clues and information that will be useful in solving the case.
Army chief will sue if linked to Sondhi plot
Army chief General Anupong Paochinda yesterday threatened to take legal action against anyone who has been linking him with the assassination attempt made on media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul last month.
Asked to comment on rumours that Thanphuying Viriya Chavakul, who has had conflicts with Sondhi, was the mastermind behind the murder attempt Anupong said: “I am not her. You need to ask her about that. I have not heard about this allegation before, but if you want a comment, you will have to ask her.”
Speaking to reporters about Sondhi’s ambiguous statement linking the military with the attempt on his life on April 17, Anupong said: “I will exercise my legal right against whoever tries to implicate me. Sondhi will be held responsible for what he says, as will the media that publishes articles reporting what he did not say. Don’t link me with anyone involved in the shooting.”
Anupong repeated his pledge to cooperate with the police or launch the Army’s own investigation into the shooting, especially with regard to three cartridges from Armyissue bullets found at the scene which were fired from an M16 assault rifle.
Police chief investigator Pol General Thanee Somboonsap said he had no idea about Sondhi’s statement linking “a noble lady” with the shooting. “I don’t know anything about it. You have to ask Sondhi yourself about that,” he added.
Thanee said he could not tell whether he could solve the case before he retires in October. “It depends on how much evidence police can produce or gather,” he said.
The deputy police chief said the forces did not know about a lead that an Army sergeant major was behind the dud M79 grenade shell found in a city bus travelling near Sondhi’s vehicle during the shooting.
By The Nation / May 6, 2009