Doubts over Thaksin's lucky escape
News about an assassination attempt against caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was greeted with some suspicion as security and intelligence officers said there were too many questions to support such a claim.
All sorts of conspiracy theories were floated as news reports unfolded to the public about how an Army lieutenant was planning to use 67 kilograms of explosives to assassinate Thaksin.
Former security tsar Prasong Soonsiri said the incident was a set-up to divert attention from the political turmoil the government is experiencing.
He said the incident could lead to the issuing of the controversial Emergency Law to clamp down on the government's political opponents.
Others believe the incident
will give the premier the needed bargaining chip to put his supporters in key security positions at the upcoming annual reshuffle.
Thaksin said it "was his lucky day for leaving home earlier". He claimed to have been heading to an emergency meeting on the flood crisis in the North, which he had called for an hour ahead of his scheduled appointments, the times of which are usually made known in advance.
The assassination claim highlighted the statement made on Sunday by Thai Rak Thai Party executive Pairote Suwanchawee, who used the term "suicide bomber" to describe tactics employed by a handful of anti-Thaksin protestors at the Siam Paragon shopping complex in Bangkok.
Making such a comparison without explanation baffled many people, with claims it was an irresponsible statement that could have caused grave misunderstanding among the public and international community.
In what was seen as an unprecedented act, Thaksin's security people were extremely helpful with the media, providing photographers with pictures of Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana and the explosive materials found in the vehicle.
Thaksin said yesterday that he had been the target of failed assassination plots on at least two occasions in the past two weeks. He claimed one happened when he was getting off his official plane at the Don Muang airforce base, but he did not elaborate.
The premier has made similar claims over the past six years, although none has been proven.
A military strategist also pointed out that the explosive devices in the car yesterday were not assembled or ready to be detonated.
Conflicting statements were issued throughout the day. Initially, investigators on the ground said the bomb was not assembled, but the chief of the Metropolitan Police, Lt-General Wiroj Jantharangsee, told a press conference in the afternoon that it was assembled and ready to be set off.
Wiroj paraded all the evidence to the media while National Intelligence Agency chief General Chumpol Munmai concluded that the devices were meant to assassinate the premier.
There were no word on who was the suspected mastermind of the plot.
But the military strategist pointed out that if the devices were meant to explode as Thaksin passed by, they should have been assembled so that they could be set off instantly. He said it would take at least an hour to assemble all the devices.
"If somebody wanted to kill Thaksin with that amount of explosives, all they had to do was park their car next to the front of Thaskin's residence and jump on a waiting motorbike before detonating the bomb from a distance," he said.
He dismissed suggestions that Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) Deputy Director Pallop Pinmanee was behind the plot, saying Pallop had always been close to Thaksin.
Pallop was immediately sacked without any real investigation.
Lt-General Pirat Sawamiwat, a former classmate of Pallop, said if the ousted deputy ISOC chief was behind any assassination attempt, the victim would not have survived.
Moreover, if the vehicle was in fact a car bomb, why did the driver repeatedly circle around Thaksin's residential area during the rush-hour, making the vehicle noticeable and creating suspicion?
Thawatchai, who built his career as an Army intelligence officer, said he was paid Bt200 by an unnamed friend to deliver the car from the spot where he was arrested to nearby Soi Suan Oy, according to a police source.
Thawatchai's knowledge of ordnance is still not known.
Yesterday's incident came amid mounting demands on the government for an explanation after it was revealed that two petty criminals who carried out the beating of anti-Thaksin demonstrators at the Central World shopping complex were in fact political thugs.
The news effectively pushed aside the previous contentious headlines - from the fist fight at Central World to the probe into the Kularb Kaew controversy.
The Commerce Ministry has yet to make a decision on whether Kularb Kaew was an alien company or a nominee for Temasek Holdings, the Singaporean government's financial arm that took over Shin Corp Plc.