SONDHI PROBE : Police leaked secrets, top cop admits


Suspects urged to surrender ‘before you are killed’

The police inquiry into the assassination attempt on media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul was delayed because insiders had revealed secret details, deputy national police chief General Thanee Somboonsap said yesterday.

“This case could have been wrapped up sooner but has been slow because some police do not have the spirit of being law enforcers. Some act as whistleblowers and leak secrets. Some are afraid to work after being threatened. So we ended up having few investigators working on the case,” Thanee said.

Police had launched a manhunt for two suspected gunmen involved in the attempted hit, amid fears the two might be targeted for killing themselves to ensure they keep silent on the person or persons behind the case, Thanee said.

“The two should report themselves to police because their lives might be in danger,” he said.

A court approved arrest warrants on Tuesday for Pol Cpl Worawut Mungsanti and Master Sergeant first class Panya Srihaera.

The two are wanted on charges of premeditated attempted murder and possessing guns in public places without permission.

If police can arrest the two, they could issue more arrest warrants for those involved, Thanee said, adding that police believed the suspects were still in the country.

Worawut is a police officer assigned to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau who was seconded to work at the Department of Special Investigation.

Panya is a non-commissioned Army officer from the Special Warfare Command in Lop Buri.

The charges relate to the bid to kill Sondhi, co-leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and founder of ASTV, early on April 17.

The Army has not commented on Panya’s whereabouts. The police anti-drug unit said

Worawut was absent from work for 14 days. He faces a mandatory disciplinary probe with the threat of a dishonourable discharge, if he fails to report for work today.

Thanee said police did not think Rassami Mekchai, who was found to own the dark-purple pick-up suspected to be used in the attack, was involved in the shooting.

Police are also searching for a Mazda pick-up the assailants used to follow Sondhi’s car from his home. They had found there were 800 of this model in the country and links to five of these were still being probed.

Police had yet to find guns used in the attack but said this was not a worry as they had other circumstantial evidence and witnesses that make the case solid.

Thanee said this case was actually the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Bureau and deputy Bangkok Police Chief as chief investigator but he had had to handle it to make progress. He has not been intimidated or threatened, as he knew how to carry himself.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban praised police for making progress on a case that was tough.

Asked if he thought police would be able to link high-ranking military officials or police that might be involved in the attack, Suthep said the case was the work of individuals not an institution. He said the fact the two suspects were a soldier and a police officer didn’t mean both institutions were involved.

New Politics Party secretary-general Suriyasai Katasila called on the government not to isolate the police team working on the case, saying it must draw a clear line between not interfering and leaving them isolated.

Thanee’s team had taken the right path in finding the culprits in the attack of Sondhi, who also believed his attackers were men in uniform, Suriyasai said.

“What we worry about is whether the government will support this police team and make sure that this is not a phoney fight, especially when Thanee has revealed that some investigators let out secrets and there have been high-powered groups trying to intimidate investigators,” he said.

“Although Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan have vowed this case is not a phoney fight, we have to see if they give cooperation and support to police. Just before police went to arrest the gunmen, informants leaked the news to the media about the arrest warrants, causing the suspects to become aware and able to escape,”

Suriyasai said.

He said the PM always reiterated about the rule of law and moral principles, so Sondhi’s case would be test whether the PM acted as he preached. “By letting Thanee’s team be intimidated and threatened, the PM is blurring the line between not interfering and leaving them isolated,” he said.

 Matubhum Party spokesman Muk Sulaiman questioned the timing of the police news on the case, saying news broke just when the government faced adverse publicity about swine flu and the foreign minister.

By The Nation
Published on July 16, 2009


Sondhi attack probe ‘hindered’

Deputy National police chief General Thanee Somboonsap

Deputy National police chief General Thanee Somboonsap

A senior policeman has accused some officers of obstructing the investigation into the assassination attempt on People’s Alliance for Democracy key leader Sondhi Limthongkul.

Deputy national police chief Thanee Somboonsap on Wednesday admitted the case was moving slowly as some officers were trying to derail the investigation and had leaked information to outsiders.

“If all officers involved in the case had acted professionally and adhered to their duties, progress would have faster,” Pol Gen Thanee, the head of the investigative team, said.

“Only a few remain determined to work. Some officers have been threatened and others act like spies. Secrets have sometimes been leaked.”

Police are hunting for Sgt Maj Panya Srihera from an army unit in Lop Buri and Pol Cpl Worawut Mungsanti of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB).

Arrest warrants have been issued and they face charges of premeditated and attempted murder, possession of war weapons, carrying firearms without a licence and illegal assembly. Police believe the two are still in thailand.

Pol Gen Thanee said more arrest warrants would be issued for up to 10 other suspects, who include civilians, police and soldiers. This would follow the arrest of the first two suspects.

He ruled out the possible direct involvement of Rasamee Mekchai, the owner of a Toyota pick-up truck suspected of being used in the assassination attempt in Bangkok on April 17. The vehicle could have been used by somebody else in the operation, he said.

Mrs Rasamee is a temporary employee at the Special Warfare Unit in Lop Buri province. Sgt Maj Panya is a non-commissioned officer of the unit.

A police source said Sgt Maj Panya, had been assigned to work for the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) some years ago and police are verifying if the suspect is close to a retired general with whom he worked at Isoc.

As for Pol Cpl Worawut, Pol Maj Gen Adithep Panchamanont, deputy commissioner of the NSB clarified yesterday that the officer had been temporarily transferred to the Department of Special Investigation in June last year.

Pol Maj Gen Adithep said on Tuesday the temporary transfer had not been approved. He said the DSI reported Pol Cpl Worawut had been absent from work for 14 days and could not be contacted.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon dismissed speculation that any army generals could have been involved in the bid to kill Mr Sondhi.

Bangkok Post


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