Despite all the obstacles and alleged dark influences, police investigating the murder attempt on media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul deserve a thumbs-up for having made a major breakthrough in their efforts to solve this daring crime.
They have recently found the vehicle suspected to have been used by the gunmen in the attack on Mr Sondhi, a core leader of the anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy, in the early morning of April 17 in the Banglampu area of Bangkok. It is a Toyota Vigo pickup with a Lop Buri licence plate registered under the name of Ms Rassamee Mekchai, an employee working at the Special Forces Centre in Lop Buri. Police said she was not involved, although she might have let someone use the pickup and that it could have been used in the commission of the crime.
The discovery of the suspected vehicle, which has been tested for fingerprints and gunpowder traces, is not an easy feat given the fact the attack took place in the early hours of the morning and, worse, with most of the surveillance cameras installed at the crime scene and along the escape route used by the assailants coincidentally not functioning (it is believed they were tampered with by the gang ahead of the attack).
Apart from eyewitness accounts and tapes from privately-operated circuit television, police have recruited car experts for help in trying to identify the suspected vehicle from the blurred images seen on the TV.
On top of that, the Criminal Court has issued warrants for the arrest of two suspects at the recommendation of the police.
The first suspect, identified as Weerawut Mungsanti, is a non-commissioned officer attached to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau who was on loan working with the Department of Special Investigations. A former employee of a telecom company, he is reported to be well-versed in telecom devices.
The other suspect, identified only as a Mr Panya, is a non-commissioned army officer attached to the Special Forces Centre in Lop Buri.
Despite the breakthrough, the big question now is whether the police, especially Pol Gen Thani Sapsomboon, the deputy police chief overseeing the investigation, will have the courage and the will to go after the real mastermind or masterminds who are behind the attempt on Mr Sondhi’s life. More importantly, will the team have the support they will need?
Not many people believe that the mastermind (or masterminds) will ever be exposed and brought to justice. Others are afraid that the two suspects might have been killed “to cover up the tracks” had they not been arrested. Even Pol Gen Thani himself once complained to the media that police investigating the case had encountered a “big obstacle”.
The victim himself, at one time, appeared resigned to the sad truth that his case, like other high-profile criminal cases implicating influential figures, especially those in uniform, would never be resolved.
With roughly two months remaining before reaching his mandatory retirement, Pol Gen Thani should seize the opportunity to prove his doubters wrong regarding his determination and courage to pursue the case to its end, hopefully with the exposure of the men or women behind the daring attempt on Mr Sondhi’s life.
In order to achieve that, he needs the moral support of the public and the government, especially Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. His assurance that there would not be any “match-fixing” in the case should not remain mere words but be backed by action.