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STR leaders chased by unknown group

Tensions rise as protest chiefs return to rally site for safety

The atmosphere at the anti-government rally site near Government House became very tense yesterday after protest leaders said they were chased by a group of men on Sunday night.

Nitithorn Lamlua, adviser to the Students' and People's Network for Thailand's Reform (STR), said that when he and fellow protest leader Uthai Yodmanee were returning home from the rally site, several cars followed and cut in front of their vehicle on Phitsanulok Road.

He also said that someone inside a car pointed a gun at them while they were waiting for the lights to change at Urupong Intersection. After that, he decided to jump the red light and drive back to the rally stage.

Nitithorn said he suspected the men were trying to abduct them, adding that he did not believe it was the police chasing to arrest them. Both he and Uthai are wanted on criminal charges for breaking into the Foreign Ministry and for rallying in front of the US Embassy.

Meanwhile, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengdith denied police had dispatched a team to arrest Nitithorn, though he confirmed that STR core leader Pichai Chaimongkol had been arrested on Sunday night.

Tarit said the DSI had decided to take up Pichai's case as a special case and would call on the court not to grant him bail today. However, STR lawyer Puangthip Bunsanong said she would post a Bt75,000 bail for his release.

Separately, People's Democratic Reform Committee secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban led protesters in a big clean-up operation at the rally site at Democracy Monument ahead of New Year's celebrations.

Somsak Kosaisuk, a PDRC leader, also led a team of foreign academics on human rights to inspect and witness the rally.

Narong Apikulwanit, director of the forward medical operations centre, said that from Thursday to yesterday, 167 people had been injured, 23 of whom were still in hospital, and three had been killed. Of those still undergoing treatment, nine are police officers and 14 civilians.

Five had been injured in an explosion at the Makkhawan-Rangsan Bridge on Sunday and one was still being treated for eye injuries, he said.

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