November 09, 2012 00:00
By Avudh Panananda
Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat seemed to hit the nail on the head when he said that Thaksin Shinawatra would know better than anybody else if he was going to be assassinated.
There have been several theories going around about the existence of this assassination plot, yet the lack of leads is fast turning it into a cold case. Also, a new cascade of events is making it even more difficult to prove these assassination allegations.
On Tuesday, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board kicked off a six-day meeting in Chiang Rai, immediately across the border from the Myanmar town of Tachilek.
Pores along the borders in the North have been identified as major drug-trafficking routes, and since early this year, Thai police and the ONCB have mounted several successful raids, crippling drug gangs run by Myanmar’s Shan minority.
In order to ensure safety at the meeting, both Myanmar and Thai authorities organised coordinated security sweeps along the borders. On November 2, Myanmar security forces seized a cache of weapons in Tachilek that allegedly belong to a gang of Shan drug mules. Subsequently, a Shan drug suspect allegedly confessed that these weapons were going to be used to assassinate Thaksin.
However, when questioned further about this alleged plot, the suspect recanted and appeared to be at a loss on two key details – the mastermind who had ordered this killing and how the killing was going to take place. The Myanmar authorities forwarded details of the suspect’s confession and subsequent retraction to the Provincial Police Region 5.
Two days later, Thaksin’s son Panthongtae started posting messages on his Facebook wall about somebody plotting to kill his father. Citing a “confidential” report given to him by a high-ranking official, Panthongtae voiced suspicion that the plot was part of an attempt to overthrow the government led by his aunt, Yingluck Shinawatra. He also cited the official as saying that the attack was planned to take place on the day Thaksin was scheduled to visit a pagoda in Tachilek.
On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung stepped forward to confirm Panthongtae’s story, though he specified that information about this so-called assassination plot came from just one suspect who later denied his own remarks.
To this day, it remains a mystery as to why suddenly this pagoda visit came up because, as of last week, Thaksin had still not finalised his itinerary in Tachilek.
Plus, some events seem to have compounded the confusion.
First, Thaksin does not comment on this alleged plot, which is very unusual because he is always quick to issue statements. Then his legal adviser Noppadon Pattama says the Tachilek trip is cancelled out of concern for the safety of the reds.
Second, for the past 10 days or so, various red-shirt factions have been flocking to Chiang Rai and Tachilek to make advance preparations for a meet-and-greet session with Thaksin.
However, unlike a similar meet-and-greet session held in Siem Reap in April, there seems to be absolutely no coordination among the various factions. For instance, red-shirt supporters from the Northeast rushed to make arrangements without consulting their Chiang Rai counterparts, who wanted to play host after missing out on the Siem Reap event.
Third, Myanmar officials in Tachilek started voicing displeasure over red shirts invading the area and disturbing the general peace.
Fourth, this plot seems to coincide with the upcoming censure debate. Panthongtae and the ruling-Pheu Thai Party have been working really hard to connect the dots to back their theory of the opposition conspiring to seize power.
However, they seem to be at a complete loss after their opponents issued a rebuttal, saying the so-called assassination plot had been fabricated to pull public attention away from the government’s shortcomings.