Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Police thwart protest bomb bid

Suspects say they were hired to instigate unrest

Published: 25/01/2011

Police have seized two homemade bombs and other ammunition from a group who reportedly confessed to having been hired to sabotage the People's Alliance for Democracy rally planned for today.

The discovery came as the PAD prepared to join two other pressure groups in a protest aimed at forcing the government to take a tougher stance in its dealings with Cambodia on border issues.

Police spotted a man behaving suspiciously at Misakawan intersection on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue about 5pm yesterday.

They said a search found he had two homemade explosives in his possession. One was designed to be detonated by a mobile phone signal, while the other was connected to a clock and set to go off at 7.45pm.

The man, later identified as Tawatchai Iamnak, 37, reportedly confessed to being hired to plant the bombs at Chamai Maruchet Bridge, near Government House, where the Santi Asoke Buddhist sect is staging a rally.

Police used a watergun to destroy the bombs' circuits.

Questioning of Mr Tawatchai led to the arrest of four other suspects at a house on Soi Rama II 28, where police found a number of rocket-propelled grenades and more ammunition, including about 30 bullets. One of the suspects reportedly confessed to being hired to stir up unrest at the PAD rally and to bomb Government House.

The arms seizure took place as demonstrators from the provinces started to arrive in Bangkok to join today's rally at Makkhawan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the authorities had been informed of the attack attempt but he did not know who was behind the suspects.

The planned rally will see the PAD join forces with the Santi Asoke sect - also known as the Dhamma Army - and the Thai Patriots Network.

The situation has been further complicated by a planned demonstration today by the June 24 Group, which is allied to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship. Its members plan to gather at the nearby Democracy Monument to protest against the PAD's interference in foreign relations.

The PAD has chosen Makkhawan Bridge to set up a stage, while the Santi Asoke sect and the Thai Patriots Network are encamped at Chamai Maruchet Bridge on nearby Phitsanulok Road.

The three groups share the primary demand of the revocation of a year 2000 memorandum of understanding signed by Thailand and Cambodia governing their border disagreements.

The PAD also wants the government to drive Cambodians from disputed areas on the border and to cancel Thailand's membership of the Unesco World Heritage Committee.

Mr Abhisit said yesterday he would not bow to the demands. Such actions would only have adverse effects and might lead to war.

The prime minister also pointed out that Thailand's withdrawal from the World Heritage Committee would mean it would no longer be able to oppose Cambodia's management plan for the heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple on the border.

Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, a key PAD leader, insisted yesterday the alliance would continue its rally until the group's demands were met.

He said PAD supporters would not storm Government House as part of the protest and the group was not seeking to oust the government. Its main aim was to protect and defend the country's territorial integrity.

"Although we are not confident of victory, we are at least performing our duty as Thais," Maj Gen Chamlong said.

The PAD leader denied rumours of a rift with Santi Asoke leader Samana Photirak.

He said they were in frequent contact by telephone and the PAD and Santi Asoke would work closely together during the rally.

Sunthorn Rakrong, a Thai Patriots Network coordinator, said his group would not join the PAD rally at Makkhawan Bridge. It would hold a separate rally at Chamai Maruchet Bridge.

Mr Sunthorn said the network was not in conflict with the PAD. They might have different tactics, but they share a common goal.

Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Jakthip Chaijinda said 20 units made up of about 2,000 officers had been assigned to monitor the protests.

Sixteen units will be deployed at Makkhawan Bridge and four units at Government House.

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