Thaksin assassination case

19 08 2009

Back in the days when Thaksin Shinawatra was still prime minister he claimed that he was the target of more than one assassination attempt. The most widely publicized was a car bomb in August 2006.See another Nation story here. Photos of the car and explosives are available.

See the Reuters report here, which includes the wondrous quote from Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) man Panlop Pinmanee who was accused of involvement. Panlop told reporters he had nothing to do with any plot, but that if he had wanted Thaksin dead, he would be dead. He explained that he was experienced at organizing death squads, and said: “It’s impossible that I would assassinate the prime minister. If had wanted to do it, I would have done it more subtly…”, adding, “If I had wanted to kill him, the prime minister would not have escaped.”

At the time, anti-Thaksin personalities ridiculed the whole idea, with some even suggesting that Thaksin had staged a publicity stunt or worse. One commentator stated that the assassination claim was: “a claim that few believed and many saw either as a bid for sympathy or a cover for a security crackdown by loyalists or both.

For a while the case seemed to go away, especially under the military-backed government led by privy councilor Surayud Chulanont, when it seemed that the lower-level military accused of involvement would not be subject to serious investigation. However, back in June, it was reported that progress was being made on the case when a verdict was postponed by the military court.

Now the Bangkok Post (19 August 2009: “Jail terms in Thaksin ‘car bomb’ case”) reports that the verdict has been delivered. The “Bangkok Military Court cleared three suspects of the charge of attempting to murder prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, but jailed them for illegal possession of explosives and firearms.”

ISOC men Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana, Colonel Surapol Supradit and Lieutenant-Colonel Manas Sukprasert were “sentenced the three to six years imprisonment and a fine of 4,000 baht each for illegal possession of explosives and firearms.” Apparently the court considered that there was insufficient evidence to convict them of the car bomb assassination plot. Why? Because a “body search of Lt Thawatchai [who had been driving the car and] who was arrested that day, had not found any evidence of a device to activate the explosives in the vehicle…”.

So despite the failure to convict these military men on the assassination attempt, that the conviction on illegal possession of explosives and firearms shows that there was a plot to kill Thaksin. The masterminds were not and probably will not ever be found, but the coup that followed suggests that the military and palace, who planned and ran the coup, probably saw the coup as Plan B after the assassination plots failed.

Update: The Bangkok Post (20 August 2009: “Officers cleared of attempt to assassinate Thaksin”) uses this somewhat daft headline to kind of assert that there was no assassination bid against Thaksin. The reason is explained: “The court acquitted the three of the attempted murder charge after it heard the bombs had not been wired to go off, that Lt Thawatchai had not held a remote control to detonate them, and Thaksin’s limousine had already passed the flyover.”

This is the kind of reporting that is infuriating for some. One can say “read between the lines” or one can just say that the reporter is being dumb. PPT is not sure which, but the idea that military men can drive around in cars full of explosives, park it on the prime minister’s normal route, and that this is not an assassination bid is just dumb. But then again, those who tried to kill Sondhi Limthongkul seemed to fire hundreds of rounds without killing anyone.

Perhaps Thaksin and Sondhi are lucky that the military is just so hopeless and incompetent in Thailand. However, the idea of measuring competence by successful assassination of political figures is distasteful.


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