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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Gunfire slays protester; Min Buri bomber identified; Military urges Songkran talks; PM calls witnesses in graft probe

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Gun attack targets anti-govt protesters
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: One protester was killed and four others injured yesterday when gunmen fired in broad daylight at their convoy while travelling on an expressway in Nonthaburi province, in a further inflammation of the political conflict.

The group from the Students and People’s Network for Thailand’s Reform (STR), travelling in a three-vehicle convoy, were returning from a rally led by core protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban at the Chaeng Wattana rally site. The convoy was hit by gunfire as it was passing a tollgate and entering the expressway.

The slain man was travelling in the lead vehicle with STR leaders, while the four injured protesters were in the following two vehicles. At a press briefing, STR adviser Nitithorn Lamlua said the attack showed that police could not be trusted to protect members of his group, adding that the STR would travel with maximum self-defence capability when conducting future activities, and was ready to counter any threat.

The slain man was identified as STR guard Wasan Khamwong. He was pronounced dead at Ramathibodi Hospital, while the four injured people, including two women, were being treated there. The risk of political violence has heightened with the two rival groups organising mass gatherings on Saturday. The pro-government red shirts are set to converge in large numbers around Bangkok, while a key anti-government movement is arranging a meeting of provincial reform councils from across the country at Lumpini Park.

Since November 30, there have been 21 deaths and 733 cases of injuries related to the political strife. The first outbreak of violence, at Rajamangala Stadium, between red shirts and Ramkhamhaeng University students saw five people killed. The latest violence before yesterday’s incident near the Ratchaprasong protest site saw two children killed in an M79 grenade attack.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) chairman Jatuporn Promphan said about 500,000 red shirts would converge at Aksa Road, off Phutthamonthon in western Bangkok. UDD chief adviser Thida Thavornseth said Aksa Road was a good, spacious venue and the gathering on Saturday was also regarded as an exercise that could serve as preparation for an actual battle.

UDD secretary-general Nuttawut Saikuar said there would be no confrontation between the red shirts and the anti-government protesters, but the red shirts were ready to enter Bangkok if there were a military coup.

The gathering was organised by local and provincial red-shirt leaders, however, with the aim to ready them for further mobilisation, possibly moved further inside Bangkok, in case of any sudden development such as a coup, or the appointment of a non-elected prime minister, Nuttawut said.

A meeting of key UDD leaders will be held tomorrow about this further movement, he added. He called on military leaders not to declare martial law aimed at preventing the red shirts from moving into Bangkok.

“The Armed Forces should stay put and remain neutral while a new general election is announced and voting takes place without disruption. With all these [measures], the country can go forward,” he said.

The government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO)’s chief advisor Surapong Tovichakchaikul said police were capable of coping with political gatherings of the two camps under the Internal Security Act. He said CAPO’s chief Chalerm Yoobamrung had repeatedly told Nuttawut to ensure that the red shirts remained peaceful during Saturday’s rally.

Army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the military’s stance and security measures remained unchanged to cope with the red-shirt gathering on Saturday.

Min Buri bombing suspect identified
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Police are seeking an arrest warrant for the prime suspect in a fatal bombing in Bangkok’s Min Buri district on Saturday night.

The suspect has been identified as Ao Issara, based on an identification paper he allegedly used to rent a house for a group of more than 10 men.

Two of the men were killed in the bomb blast on March 29, reportedly while they were carrying explosives on a motorcycle.

Witnesses told police that following the deadly explosion, all the men in the rented house disappeared.

“They left in a white van. We will try to locate that vehicle,” Min Buri Police Station superintendent Pol Colonel Kanchon Intararam said.

An ongoing investigation has suggested that Ao Issara is a false identity the suspect had used to rent the house. The tenant had told his landlord his group was a bunch of electricians.

“When signing the rental contract he produced what looked like an ID card of a Ratchaburi community-police member. But there was no real person registered under the name of Ao Issara in the country’s household registration,” Kanchon said.

He said more than 10 men had moved into the house on March 8. Kanchon said police had a photo of the alleged suspect and locals could remember his face.

Metropolitan Police Division 3 commander Pol Maj-General Sukhun Prommayon said available evidence and witnesses’ statements had proved useful to the ongoing inquiries.

“But we can’t disclose details at this point,” he said.

He has disclosed that police were now examining fingerprints inside the rented house as well as materials left behind them.

“Further evidence will determine whether this bombing is related to other bomb blasts,” Sukhun said.

National police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew said the ongoing investigation suggested the group involved in the Min Buri bombing was part of an illegal network.

“We have to dig deep and find out about this illegal network’s motive. We will also need to determine whether it is related to any other group,” he said.

Adul has instructed assistant national police commissioner Pol Lt-General Winai Thongsong to urgently look into the case.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he believed the Min Buri case might have been linked to the arrest of four suspects in Bangkok’s Bang Na district in January. However he refused to elaborate.

Military urges Songkran negotiations
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The military still wants all parties involved in the current political conflict to talk to each other, and prevent violence, Royal Thai Air force Commander-in-Chief ACM Prajin Juntong said in an exclusive interview with Nation Multimedia Group editor in chief Thepchai Yong.

He said the Songkran festival could be a good timing for the negotiations.

The military does not rule out staging a coup because it does not know if the political crisis facing the country will end peacefully as it wishes, Prajin said.

“The military has to be pessimistic and prepare for unfortunate eventualities. We have selected several options for action in light of events that could affect national security,” he said.

Prajin, who will retire in six months, made the remark in response to Army Chief General P

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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