Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thailand's PAD party says Army colonel suspected of involvement contacted 'powerful figure'

Top official 'involved'

Published on July 19, 2009

The unsolved mysteries surrounding the assassination attempt on Sondhi Limtrongkul, a key leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), took a new twist yesterday when it was alleged that a high-ranking administration official was involved.

Panthep Puapongpan, a spokesman for the PAD, said an army colonel believed to be involved in the failed assassination attempt had phoned the powerful figure, who was closely connected with the military and police.

The move followed Deputy National Police Chief Thani Somboonsap's public outcry that he had run into a major stumbling block while investigating the Sondhi case.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who met Thani, the chief investor, last week, is expected to make a crucial decision shortly regarding the course of this highly sensitive case. Panthep said the army colonel, whose name was withheld, had made the phone call to the powerful figure in connection with the assassination case because results of the investigation could be highly damaging.

Abhisit said yesterday that Thani could still proceed with his investigation so there was no need to appoint a committee to investigate alleged leaks of classified information pertinent to the assassination attempt as suggested by the PAD.

So far Thani's investigation team has sought the arrests of Worawut Mungsanti, a non-commissioned officer of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, and Master Sgt Panya Srihaerais, a non-commissioned officer attached to the Special Warfare Command in Lop Buri province, in connection with the attempt on Sondhi's life.

Citing well-informed sources, Panthep said there had been three attempts by military figures to tamper with the case.

A high-ranking military official summoned police and threatened to destroy evidence pertaining to the case, then another army general intimidated police investigators,

and thirdly Gen Somjet Boonthanom, a former secretary-general of the Council for National Security (CNS), said Thani should not have made his case in public, Panthep said.

On allegations that some members of the military top brass were linked to the attempt on Sondhi's life even though the PAD was the ally of the CNS, Somjet said he did not want to blame Sondhi for linking the CNS to the case because as the victim of the attack he had a right to his theory.

Former Army chief General Chettha Thanajaro also insisted he was not the mastermind in the Sondhi case.

"I do not have the guts to order anyone killed, because I fear sin, though it would be another matter in the case of an enemy of the country,'' Chettha said in an interview to the radio programme "Lab Luang Prang" on FM 100.5.

However, he admitted that one of the two suspects, Panya, had once been on his staff.

Reacting to an opinion survey where most respondents said they believed the suspects were scapegoats and doubted police would be able to bring the mastermind to justice, Abhisit said he would ensure that the Sondhi case was handled straightforwardly with no harassment or dereliction.

"We have to give investigators time to work on it. They cannot publicly reveal all information,'' he said.

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