February 25, 2014 00:00 By Phathinya Iamtan
Shooter allegedly an expert; attacks used to justify protests, NSC boss says
The M79 grenade that landed near the anti-government rally at Ratchaprasong intersection late on Sunday afternoon, killing three people and injuring several others, was most likely launched from the vicinity of Pratunam intersection, the police ordnance division chief Pol Maj-General Ronnakorn Suphasamut said yesterday.
“The round was fired in a projectile motion with the aim of harming people and property in front of the [Big C] shopping mall,” he said. The M79 hit trees before bouncing off the kerb and exploding on the road, he added.
Ronnakorn said the blast had created a 5-by-2-centimetre crater and evidence found at the scene showed it was a 40-mm round fired from a launcher.
“The shooter is likely an expert in using M79 launchers judging
from the accuracy of the round [landing inside the rally stage area],” he said.
Security has been heightened in areas adjacent to the three rally sites – including Pathumwan and Asoke intersections – senior commander Pol Maj-General Suebsak Phansura said. In an earlier statement, he had said he believed the M79 fired at Ratchaprasong may have been shot from ground level.
He added that police will man checkpoints around the clock to ensure no weapons are taken into rally sites and will check vantage points in the three protest areas to cut down on the chance of them being used for future attacks.
Meanwhile, National Security Council (NSC) chief Paradorn Pattanatabut yesterday dismissed a Navy commander’s claim that foreign forces were involved in fatal attacks against anti-government protesters in Bangkok and Trat over the weekend.
Instead, Paradorn put the attacks down to extremists who had joined the rally under the guise of being protesters.
Naval Security Warfare commander Rear Admiral Winai Klom-in had said earlier that the random shooting and bomb attacks in the border province of Trat, which resulted in the death of a five-year-old girl, with another in coma and several people injured, were the work of “foreign forces”.
The NSC chief responded by saying certain people were “using violence to justify the existence of the anti-government protesters” and that these people were also behind the attack in Trat, because they had a “similar purpose”.
Pol Maj-General Piya Uthayo, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, said surveillance camera footage showed that two vehicles were used by up to six men who staged the attack in Trat. One was a black Toyota pick-up without a licence plate, while the other was a silver Toyota pick-up with its licence plate covered.
Both vehicles were seen heading toward downtown Trat using Sukhumvit Road, he said.
Meanwhile, caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who is chief of the government’s anti-protest command, said he knew everything about both the attacks, but would reveal details about them later. He also said that launching M79 rounds 100-metres from the rally stage had been done with “the intention of exploiting the violence”. He did not elaborate.