Failed assassination unmasks perpetrators in high places

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WHAT we are hearing more and more of in the news are the alleged plots and subplots in the attempt on the life of Sondhi Limthongkul, a key leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Stories are being spun to show the complicated networks behind those alleged to be the masterminds, the co-conspirators, the shooters and the other hired hands. Their single aim is the death of a man they love to hate.

What we have heard is that the key figures include top generals in the military and police, their underlings, and influential politicians who have put aside their differences for this daring mission. They may or may not be on common ground, sowing the seeds of mutual benefit at the expense of the entire nation. That, of course, includes the plundering of national wealth and the clinging to power under the facade of Thai-style democracy, which can be left up to anybody’s imagination.

The assassination plots involve experts in eavesdropping, snipers, and a commando-style ambush team that was approved by influential figures in high places. The day set for the killing was during the state of emergency, after the military crackdown on red-shirted thugs who caused mayhem on city streets.

The order came from the top, after the parties who stand to benefit from Sondhi’s death approved the means as the final solution. If the target was eliminated, the co-conspirators could rest assured that “New Politics”, under a new party organised by the PAD, would not take off with strength and the long-term potential to challenge the status quo.

The assassination attempt, said to have been sanctioned by top uniformed figures, should make novels by John le Carre and Tom Clancy pale in comparison. Not because of the suspense and intrigue, but because of the audacity of those people who believe in their own power and that they are above the law. They would have got away scot-free if the plan had been successfully carried out. It’s an organised crime by people in high positions.

The public does not need to guess much. In our society, gossip, wild rumour and speculation serve as the best way to smoke out the suspects and the real culprits. They soon feel the heat. In the past few days, there have been statements of denial – not surprisingly – from top figures in the police and military. Quite a few retired Army chiefs have been mentioned. All have sported brave faces and denied any role in the plot.

So far, two non-commissioned police and military officers are facing arrest warrants. Each has expertise in his own field – eavesdropping and sniping respectively. They remain at large, though there are reports that they will soon give themselves up to face charges. As of now, it is not certain whether the two are still alive.

Is this a result of an internecine plot for political supremacy? Yes. Will the result of the police investigation, headed by Pol General Thanee Somboonsap, be credible, especially given that the assassination attempt involved retired and active military and police generals, as well as politicians struggling to regain power? A lot of people don’t think so, judging from past high-profile murder cases involving influential figures.

Pol General Thanee did not find his work smooth. He got little cooperation from fellow professionals. He complained about somebody ratting and spewing out investigation progress reports to alert the perpetrators and masterminds. He sought assurance for support from Prime Minister Abhisit, who uttered aloud at the weekend that he had some idea about the people involved. From what he said, they are not low-end, hired gunmen. The two facing the arrest warrants serve as a clear proof that this was not your average murder attempt.

Does Abhisit have enough resolve to get those involved arrested and tried in court for conspiracy to murder? So far, he hasn’t shown any sign that he wants to back off. As a victim of two murder attempts by red-shirted thugs, he should be more careful with his personal security if he persists with the case.

It also depends on Pol General Thanee and whether his team can unearth sufficient evidence to nail down and charge those influential figures in the face of pressure and formidable obstacles. This is a test of Abhisit’s determination to prove his earlier word that justice will prevail under his leadership.

The public is anxious to know how this case will end. Those alleged and presumed to have been involved are quite jumpy, like a cat on a hot tin roof. The more they talk, the more we can hear conflicting versions of their stories. This was supposed to be a perfect assassination. It just proves that there is no such thing as the perfect crime with no clues.

The arrogance of power and the lust for financial fortune have left many loose ends for the investigators to gather credible evidence. The people are waiting to see whether the due process of law and the serving of justice can indeed prevail.

By Sopon Onkgara
The Nation
Published on July 21, 2009

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