A former Army chief admits that a suspect in the assassination attempt case of People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul was his aide but denied involvement in the plot. Meanwhile, investigators plan to seek arrest warrants for more suspects.
Former Army chief General Chettha Thanajaro said he is not involved in the attempt on Sondhi’s life but admitted that Sergeant Panya Srihe-ra, who reportedly fled to Cambodia’s Koh Kong province ,worked with him while he served as defence minister. Chettha claimed he has not seen Panya in a very long time.
General Chettha insisted the fugitive suspect did not take shelter in fragrant wood factory “Fah Kris Siam”, which is run by his daughter-in-law in Trad, after the April’s shooting. He declined to comment on whether Panya was involved in the plot but stated that his former aide was a reliable, yet quiet person.
General Chettha said that he and Sondhi have met several times and reiterated that he had no dispute with Sondhi. The former Army chief said he believes Sondhi will know deep down that he could never be the mastermind behind the assassination attempt and he is ready to clear up any potential misunderstanding with Sondhi.
Deputy national police chief in charge of the case, Police Lieutenant General Thani Somboonsap, held a meeting with his staff to discuss the direction and development of the investigation after yesterday’s hunt for evidence in Trad Province.
The forensic team’s findings on fingerprints found on a pick-up truck suspected to have been used in the assassination plot were forwarded to Police General Thani this afternoon.
The fingerprints from the truck did not match any records in the police criminal database. Investigators have asked for samples of the first two suspects’ fingerprints from their respective units to compare with those found on the truck.
Chettha’s aide ‘too kind to kill’
Former army chief Chettha Thanajaro yesterday distanced himself from his former aide Panya Srihera who is suspected of involvement in the failed assassination attempt on Sondhi Limthongkul, a core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.
“Mr Sondhi knows me well. It’s just a political game,” Gen Chettha said yesterday.
Police are still hunting for the two leading suspects in the case, Sgt-Maj Panya, who is attached to the Special Warfare Unit in Lop Buri, and Pol Cpl Worawut Mungsanti, from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau.
Arrest warrants have been issued and they face charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder, possession of war weapons, carrying firearms without a licence and illegal assembly.
Police believe the two are still at large in Thailand.
Gen Chettha selected Sgt-Maj Panya as his aide when he was appointed defence minister in 2004.
Gen Chettha said all he knew was that the wanted officer was staying at the Krisana Fah Siam Co, an agarwood plant in Trat’s Khao Saming district, owned by Orathai Thanajaro, his daughter-in-law.
He said he rarely went to the farm.
“I had no conflicts with Mr Sondhi, on the contrary we are acquaintances. I and Mr Sondhi ate noodles together so many times,” said Gen Chettha, who served as defence minister during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration.
“I have never ordered anyone killed in my life and would never do such a thing even for Mr Thaksin,” he said, referring to the ousted prime minister who has declared Mr Sondhi as his arch-enemy.
But he said Sgt-Maj Panya was a good man and a disciplined soldier who was too kind to kill anyone.
“I doubt even if he was ordered to climb a durian tree, he would be able to do so,” Gen Chettha said.
The general told police he would try to contact Sgt-Maj Panya and convince him to surrender.
Pol Cpl Worawut was sacked from the police force for failing to turn up for work for more than 15 days.
Narcotics Suppression Bureau commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Wut Liptapanlop said the order was issued yesterday.
Pol Cpl Worawut had contacted Thanee Somboonsap, head of a team investigating the case, saying he would surrender in the next few days, said Pol Maj-Gen Adithep Pajamanond, the deputy NSB chief.
Investigators are awaiting the two suspects’ fingerprints to compare with the 10 fingerprint samples collected from a dark purple pick-up truck used in the attack on Mr Sondhi.
Pol Gen Thanee said the fingerprints found on the suspected vehicle did not match any of the 5-6 million held on the criminal database.
Pol Maj-Gen Surapol Pinijchob, chief of the Scientific Crime Detection Division, said forensic tests have not found any gunpowder traces in the vehicle as the crime took place a long time ago.
The suspects’ DNA would also be compared with samples found in the truck.
Bangkok Post / Published: 18/07/2009
Sonthi , Chettha and a bowl of noodle
Gen Chetta Thanajaro, former army chief and now a senior member of Thaksin Shinawatr’s Pheau Thai Party, says he was once quite close to Sondhi Limthongkul, the target of an assassination attempt. A soldier close to him, Sgt Panya, has been issued an arrest warrant for being a suspected gunman.
Chetta was on FM 100.5 this morning to say that he had a good relations with Sondhi even before he became army chief. “I used to go to his office at Baan Phra Arthit to chat. The noodle dish there was also quite tasty,” he said.
He was, of course, indicating that there was no reason at all to suspect his involvement in the failed attempt to get Sondhi killed although he admitted Sgt Panya, one of the suspected gunmen, was working close to him.
“Sgt Panya, as far as I know him, is a quiet and wel-behaved man,” Chetta said.
So, he knows both parties concerned but he gave no indications as to whether he knew who was behind the assassination attempt against Sondhi.
But is he ready to head Thaksin’s Pheau Thai Party as had been rumoured?
Chetta said: “No. I have my personal obligations. I am not ready to do that.”
Thaksin of course is Sondhi’s main rival.
If you can’t work out the puzzle so far, don’t panic. Most people are quite confused too.