Violence fears realised

national January 16, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Abhisit's home attacked; 4 held in 'unrelated' weapons seizure

THE STAKES in the months-long political rally are rising, as more violence is directed at anti-government protesters.

The Bangkok residence of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party leader, was the target of a grenade attack on Tuesday night, while two people near the Pathum Wan rally site were injured in a shooting early yesterday morning.

In a move to cope with the rising number of attacks, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee  (PDRC) has agreed to cooperate with a new police security plan under which nine checkpoints will be set up near Pathum Wan and Ratchaprasong rally sites to screen people entering the venue to minimise the chance of possible attacks.

The casualty toll for the “Bangkok shutdown”, now entering its fourth day, had grown to seven injuries as of Tuesday night, sustained in three attacks on anti-government rally sites by unknown assailants, according to a Public Health Ministry update released yesterday. The ministry’s toll does not include five deaths that occurred during a red-shirt rally at Rajamangala Stadium late last year.

Since the PDRC launched its campaign late last year, three people have died and 194 have been wounded through attacks and other violence, Dr Narong Sahametapat, permanent secretary of the ministry, said in statement read out yesterday. The incidents cited by Narong included a two-day skirmish between police and protesters at the Thai-Japanese Stadium during candidacy registration.

Early yesterday, a bus chartered by anti-government protesters that was parked at the Nang Lerng Race Course, officially known as the Royal Turf Club, was damaged when a tyre was set on fire.

In what was described as a separate incident, four people were arrested and a 9mm pistol and four grenades were seized when the suspects’ vehicle was stopped at a checkpoint at 3am yesterday. Bang Na police said the four suspects had nothing to do with the bombing of Abhisit’s house.

The four suspects – Anusorn Pinijkhun, 45, Suna Thinkaew, 53, Khamphrai Saengsawaeng, 45, and Thanapha Denmart, 48, a woman – were charged with possessing weapons and carrying them in public without a permit. Suna reportedly confessed to buying the grenades from a friend and carrying the gun for self-defence.

Deputy National Police chief Pol General Aek Angsananont said the seized explosives were Chinese-made RGD-5 grenades, possibly smuggled in, unlike the type used in Abhisit’s home attack, which police did not identify.

Aek had inspected Abhisit’s house on Sukhumvit Soi 31 after a grenade blew a large hole in the roof above a storage room and shattered windows at 11.20pm on Tuesday. No one was hurt in the incident. Abhisit’s family had already moved out, leaving a few caretakers inside.

The motive was probably just to scare people, as was believed to be the case in a drive-by shooting at a coffee shop at the Democrat Party headquarters on Monday night, Aek said.

Pol Colonel Khamthon Ouicharoen, chief of Explosive Ordnance Disposal police, said the grenade picked up at Abhisit’s house was a US-made M-26 model, available in military arsenals.

Abhisit said he believed the figures behind this attack were the same ones that carried out attacks on his and others’ homes during the bloody red-shirt protest in Bangkok in 2010.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban claimed the government had something to do with all the attacks last night against the anti-government movement.

Rames Rattanachaweng, a Democrat legal adviser, urged Bang Na police not to jump to conclusions regarding the explosives arrests pending a thorough investigation.

At the Hua Chang Bridge near the PDRC’S rally site at the Pathum Wan Intersection, Thossaphol Ngamlamai, 35, a garbage collector, and Amphai Charoenrit, 55, a woman from Surat Thani, were hit by gunfire from unknown sources just after midnight.

Thossaphol, who was shot in the ankle and head, and Amphai, struck in the right arm, were rushed to King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital. A pickup truck opposite the Asia Hotel was also hit. A source reported that gunshots and blasts continued to be heard in the area until about 2am, when everything went quiet. Former Democrat MP Thaenkhun Jitissara said he suspects the gunman might be a professional because, unlike the attacks on Rajdamnoen Avenue when motorcyclists were seen hauling explosives or opening fire before fleeing, this seemed like an ambush. Police would be asked to check on the buildings surrounding the rally site.

Pol Maj-General Wanlop Prathummuang, a senior commander who led a team to inspect the Hua Chang Bridge shooting scene amid some protesters’ scolding, said police found a spent cartridge at the site.Police, regretting this happened due to their lack of access to rally sites to provide security, would ask protest leaders to let them help screen people who came and left the protest sites, he said.