Naval officers 'moonlighted as guards at protest'

national January 17, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Three armed naval officers have allegedly been found working unlawfully as guards for hardline anti-government movement Students and People Network for Thailand's Reform (STR), police said yesterday.

A high-ranking commander, Admiral Pichan Dhiranetra, said the three officers were naval anti-narcotics agents who may have operated at protest sites without permission. An internal investigation into their acts is underway, he said.
The three officers were identified as Navy Lieutenant Phairat Phlai-ngarm and petty officers-first class Phairin Phothi and Banlang Khanthaphol, under the Royal Thai Fleet.
Navy spokesman Rear Admiral Karn Dee-ubol said later that the agents were working on a case to track drug dealers from Chon Buri who blended in at protest sites, and that they would be penalised through both disciplinary and military criminal actions if found guilty.
The three officers were carrying VIP cards issued by the STR, along with handguns fitted with silencers, said a senior policeman, Pol Colonel Krailert Buakaew. The handguns, munitions and silencers were issued lawfully to them by the Navy, he added.
The agents’ current assignments, however, are in the far South and eastern provinces. “The Navy order and authority given to them seems lawful, but they are carrying out duties seemingly unlawfully,” said Krailert.
The three Navy officers were initially in police custody, and are now in Navy custody pending further investigation. The Navy spokesman said Navy commander Admiral Narong Pipatanasai had been informed of the issue and had already issued an order to begin a probe into it.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, the director of the government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, said later that the three officers were special-operations personnel moonlighting as guards for the protest movement. He said military units with officers engaged in such moonlighting would now be required to report their work to the CAPO.
He called on a protest leader whose supporters were blocking the Department of Consular Affairs at the Government Complex to make way for people wanting to apply for or renew passports.
Meanwhile, the Bangkok home of a People’s Democratic Reform Committee leader, Issara Somchai, came under a bomb attack early Wednesday morning. The homemade explosives caused damage to his house, located off Chaeng Wattana Road in Lak Si district, as well as a car and a motorcycle, but caused no casualties.
Police said the bomb was made of a tap-water pipe containing nails intended as shrapnel. Quoting witnesses, police said attackers arrived at the home in a sedan at around 2am and drove around a few times before throwing the bomb. Issara was not home at the time and a housemaid sustained no injuries but suffered from mild shock. 
Policemen and anti-government protesters have set up four road checkpoints to guard against possible attacks, in the wake of continued attacks at night on rally sites.
The four checkpoints have been set up at a PTT petrol station on Phaholyothin Road; near the Din Daeng T-intersection; at a road section between Si Ayutthaya intersection and Victory Monument; and at a road section from Tuek Chai intersection to the monument. Each is manned by 30-50 policemen and active from 1am to 5am every day. The chiefs of operations for both sides are Pol Colonel Choosak Techarakphong and former Democrat candidate Chaiwuth Phongphaew, from Songkhla.