Privy council assassination bid

22 10 2010

A couple of weeks ago PPT raised the question of whatever happened to the alleged plot to assassinate privy councilor and former justice minister Charnchai Likitjitta. The Bangkok Post now gives its readers something of an answer. It reports that 4 men charged with the “plot” have been found guilty of “masterminding” a plot to assassinate the privy councilor  last year.

Privy Councilor Charnchai

PPT invites readers to look at the story as it appears in the Post and tell us if they understand what happened. Yes, the Samut Prakan provincial court “sentenced Khamik Sukkanchanakat, Thienchai Muangjanthuek, Suchart Sapmanee and Sukree Khaopong to 16 years and eight months each in prison.” And, yes, the prosecutors tell us that there was a failed attempt, twice, to get to Charnchai’s house and shoot him.

But who were these “masterminds,” what was their reason for wanting Charnchai dead, and why were they so hopeless at arranging it? As is usual in these cases, there is a statement that: “Interrogation uncovered the assassination plot and led to the arrest of the masterminds.” PPT is left to wonder about it all.

If any readers have further information, send it along.

Updated: Anti-monarchy plots alleged

5 10 2010

Yesterday, at the end of this post, PPT had mention of 11 men arrested in the north initially said to be “red shirt” assassins-in-training. We also mentioned the related claim by Newin Chidchob that that there was an assassination contract on him by a “former boss.”

The Nation now reports further claims by a senior police officer that 11 apprehended men are part of a plot against the monarchy.

The arrested men are stated to have “received weapons training for purposes targeting national security…”. “National security” is now Abhisit Vejjajiva regime code for the monarchy.  They are said to have immediately agreed – “vowed” is the term in the report – to “disclose useful information to authorities…”.

According to the police, mirroring claims earlier made by certain government officials and reported in several national and international news outlets, the men say they are part of “a movement was set up to subvert the country through acts of terror…”.The police officer speaking to the media added: “We have information about the weapons training they received, and their involvement in various activities including bomb-related incidents, the anti-monarchy movement, assassination plots and other incidents which caused disruption to public order in Bangkok and elsewhere…”.

So the claim is that the assassins in training morphs into a claim that they have already been bombing and so on, all around the country.

Then the police officer makes the unbelievable claim that the “police were treating the matter purely as a criminal case without seeking political motives. He refused to indicate whether the men were red fighters, or linked to the infamous ‘men in black’, who are believed to be behind incidents of violence during the red-shirt protests in May.” But he can still be quoted as saying: “If all details [coming from the 11 suspects] are linked together, and coupled with information achieved through investigations by the Department of Special Investigation into more than 200 incidents, they will be very useful for the country…”.

No names or other details have been released and the men have not been charged. The gleeful policeman alleged that there “are other groups receiving similar weapons’ training and scheming to carry out similar activities…” and then added: “but I can’t tell you where they are based now. It’s a sensitive issue and may affect investor confidence if details are revealed…”. That sounds very odd to us.

PPT noted yesterday that claims of assassination plots are legion and that “investigations almost always lead nowhere. Readers might recall that the last claimed assassination plot involving the monarchy was said to be against a privy councilor.

This case was the subject of several posts at PPT (here, here, here and here) and involved Privy Councilor Charnchai Likhitjitta. Suspects were quickly arrested, but all were soon released and that was all that was ever heard of the case. At the time we speculated that the “alleged plot may well turn out to be a political conspiracy rather than a real plot.” We might speculate again about this police claim.

Related because it involves the monarchy and in the same report, it is stated that an alleged bomb hoax against the king at his Siriraj Hospital retreat has been arrested. The man in custody is said to be a “cobbler for allegedly making a prank bomb threat against the Siriraj Hospital last week.” Police stated that he “is a supporter of the red-shirt movement and said he selected the target because it was an important place, and did the prank out of his dislike for a coalition party.”

Again, we can’t help wondering if there are real plots involved or whether the plot is simply to (again) make links between red shirts – as they regroup and get active – and anti-monarchy conspiracies.

Update: And just for good measure, another story of alleged red shirts (maybe) in training as, in this story, “freedom fighters”:

The military is conducting an investigation into activities of the red freedom fighters nabbed by the authorities for weapon training along the Thai-Burmese border in Tak Province.

Mae-sod Chief-of-staff staff of special unit region 4 , Colonel Prasan Saengsirirak said that he had sent officers to inspect the area said to have been a training site, but found no suspicious movements. He, however, ordered troops to set up check points in front of Mae-sod district in order to step up security measures.

Burma has also set up check points in the area.

It is interesting, given Kasit Piromya’s recent comments, to see support for the Thai regime from the Burmese military thugs.

The “plot” against a Privy Councilor

16 04 2009

PPT earlier reported here, here and here on the alleged plot to assassinate Privy Councilor Charnchai Likhitjitta. An odd story from the beginning, it just got stranger with the court throwing out the case against the accuse navy captain Chakkrit Sekhanant (Bangkok Post, 16 April 2009: “Navy captain cleared of Charnchai plot”).

The Samut Prakarn provincial court released the accused after the police “said their investigation had produced no evidence that Capt Chakkrit, a former aide of Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart, was involved in the alleged conspiracy.”

Chakkrit had surrendered to police on 8 April after being named by one of the alleged conspirators.

PPT may be proven wrong in the end, but this alleged plot may well turn out to be a political conspiracy rather than a real plot. We’ll probably never know. The alleged assination bid against Thaksin back in 2006 has never been explained.

More on assassination plot

9 04 2009

Reports on the alleged assassination plot on Privy Councilor Charnchai Lihitjitta continue to emerge and remain difficult to fathom as to motives. Now the Nation and the Bangkok Post report interesting but unexplained links. Bangkok Pundit has some summaries from the Thai-language press.

The Nation reports that Chakkrit Sekhanan, who is also known as Se Por is a Navy Commodore. A second wanted plotter is a man called Jack or Chart (last name unknown) who was the driver for Major Thienchai Mueangchantuek, one of three suspects already iarrested.

Chakkrit is reported to have serve in an Armed Forces unit that guards VIPs. UDD leader Jakrapob Penkair claimed that Chakkrit was once in Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond’s security detail.

More intriguing is the Bangkok Post’s report (9 April 2009: “Sanan aide sought over Charnchai plot”) that links the plot to Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart through an aide.

Sanan, who has jumped parties and governments over the last few years, is reportedly in Japan, but “admitted he had asked Capt Chakkrit to work at the PM’s Office during the Samak administration, a source said. Later, Capt Chakkrit transferred back to the navy and Maj Gen Sanan no longer had any connection with him.”

There’s bound to be more intrigue but will it all be revealed?

More on Privy Council assassination plot

8 04 2009

Both the Bangkok Post (8 April 2009: “Suspects confess to Charnchai murder conspiracy”) and the Nation (8 April 2009: “Plot to kill Chanchai confirmed: Patcharawat”) have articles claiming that the plot to murder Privy Councilor Charnchai Likhitjitta was a real plot.

Neither report provides any great detail regarding the motives behind such a plot, although the Bangkok Post has a quote from Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva claiming that the plot cannot have been coincidental and the Post then proceeds to draw a context implying that the UDD/red shirt protests are related to the plot.

This may be just bad editing or it could be bias. However, apart from noting a military link to the alleged plot, there is a need for more details on the persons alleged to have hired the gunmen and their reasons for paying for such a murder.

Update: The Bangkok Post (8 April 2009: “Police claim to foil plot against privy councillor”) has a longer report on this plot. It says that “an army major, was arrested late last night at the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen district.”

Police said that the suspects “confessed that they were hired to gun down a businessman…”. The gang was “allegedly paid 130,000 baht and supplied with the target’s address and his car licence plate number.”

A police informant from another gang claimed to have run “a check he found the licence plate number was registered to the Royal Household Bureau. When the information was cross-checked with the Department of Special Investigation, it was found the vehicle belonged to Mr Charnchai. That was when police caught the suspects.”

The Post reports that, “After a night-long interrogation, investigators said a group of people in uniform allegedly hatched the plot and wanted to use the murder to trigger national unrest.”

Another “suspect, Maj Thienchai Muang-janthuek, an officer attached to the army secretariat, was arrested late last night.”

Further update: The story is gradually getting more detail and with more detail the alleged plot becomes increasingly curious. The Nation (9 April 2009: “Army Colonel linked to kill plot”) claims that the officer involved is linked to “an influential Army officer of higher rank, who was a close aide to the leader of a now-defunct political party.”

Obviously this allegation links the plot to pro-Thaksin groups. It is then reported that: “A senior police officer said investigators had yet to work out if the plot was linked to claims that Chanchai, a former head of the Supreme Court, was part of the ‘elite’ who plotted the 2006 coup.” Again, a link to Thaksin and UDD.

The Nation then quotes an unnamed source: “Another source said the colonel was implicated by Major Thienchai Mueangchantuek, who allegedly said he was hired as a go-between to procure a team of gunmen. Thienchai has allegedly said he was paid Bt1.5 million to arrange the killing, plus stage arson attacks on 10 banks and government installations around Bangkok.”

This claim suggests a broader plot or maybe more than one plot. “Four people have been arrested for the alleged assassination plot attempt – three civilians and Major Thienchai, who has allegedly admitted to attempting to kill Chanchai.”

Then the report states: “Thienchai, currently serving as a librarian attached to the Army headquarters, is reportedly a former NCO officer close to Lt Thawatchai Klinchana. The latter was a suspect in the car-bomb assassination plot before 2006 coup. Police have not obtained clear evidence to indicate any other link between the two murder plots.”

A plot against the privy council masterminded by someone who wanted to assassinate Thaksin in 2006 and implemented by a librarian and a nest of gunmen with a .38 (not the usual weapon of choice for professionals) and 10 bullets!

We wait for more on this developing and increasingly bizarre story.

Surayud, the Privy Council, Piya Malakul and the 2006 coup

29 03 2009

Reports flowing from deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s accusations regarding moves to oust him, which eventually led to the 2006 coup, are coming thick and fast. PPT reports them here because they are revealing details about the political events of 2005 and 2006 that have resulted in both deep political divisions in Thailand and the increased use of lesé majesté charges in highly political ways.

In his denial that he was involved in planning Thaksin Shinawatra’s downfall, Privy Councilor (at the time and again now) General Surayud Chulanont (in the Bangkok Post, 29 March 2009: “Surayud says Thaksin coup claim untrue”) is reported to have said that he had “no desire nor was in any position to plot the overthrow of Thaksin.” Even so, the report states that Surayud is considering the call from General Panlop Pinmanee for him to quit the Privy Council.

The Post report has more details than the one in The Nation, mentioned by PPT in an earlier post, and reveals that “he had met prominent judges at the Sukhumvit residence of Piya Malakul, chairman of Pacific Intercommunications company, in early May 2006 as claimed by Thaksin.” It is added that Surayud stated that those at the dinner “never discussed any plan to organise a coup.” The General also “conceded [that] Panlop Pinmanee, the former deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) – whom Thaksin claimed had leaked the coup plot involving Gen Surayud to him – was also at the meeting.” Surayud says that “everyone was exchanging views on national affairs over dinner…” but “We never drew any conclusion about seizing power…”. He also is reported to have said that he went to the dinner because, “As a privy councillor, he needed to be well-informed, meet people and seek out information.”

Further, General Surayud is reported as denying “Thaksin’s allegation he had informed His Majesty the King that Thaksin did not respect the monarchy. The accusation was baseless, as were claims he volunteered before the King to topple the government, Gen Surayud said, adding Thaksin was always paranoid about a coup…. He had no idea why Thaksin attacked him and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.”

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Pachun Tampratheep, an aide to General Prem, said “Thaksin often made veiled references to Gen Prem as a person behind moves to remove him. He said he was not worried those accusations would paint the Privy Council in a negative light as Thaksin loyalists never viewed the council positively anyway. Many people still had faith in Gen Prem, said Vice-Adm Pachun.”

In a related report in The Nation (29 March 2009: “Piya defends Surayud”), Piya Malakul has defended and supported General Surayud. Piya is reported to have claimed that “It was just ‘a dinner among friends.’ It wasn’t, as alleged by former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a ‘secret meeting to plot the Sept 19, 2006 coup.’ Piya said. Piya told Matichon Online that he had hosted the dinner after His Majesty the King had on April 25, the same year, urged the judges … to find a solution to the country’s political crisis at the time.” Piya added, “I only wanted to hear what the country’s top judges who happened to be my friends had to say about the situation…”. Surayud, in the Post reports, claims that he only personally knew Supreme Administrative Court President Ackaratorn Chularat.

The Nation links to one of their blogs, Thai Talk, by Suthichai Yoon (29 March 2009: “Piya Malakul, the dinner host, said there was no talk of coup”). Drawing from Matichon (29 March 2009: “ปีย์ มาลากุล เปิดตัวยัน สุรยุทธ์ ถก 3บิ๊กตุลาการ”ปัดวางแผนรัฐประหาร แค่ดินเนอร์-แม้ว-อ้อ ก็เคยมา”), the report continues: “He [Piya] first invited Mr Akrathorn Chullarat, President of  the Administrative Court, and Mr Chanchai Likhitchitta, President of the Supreme Court, to the dinner. ‘I had known Mr Akrathorn since we were both boys,’ Piya said. He then called up Gen Surayud and Mr Pramote Nakhonthap, an academic, to invite them to join the dinner. Mr Charan Pakdithanakul, then secretary general of the Supreme Court’s President and currently a member of the Constitutional Court, also joined the dinner.” Piya is adamant: “I can confirm that there was no talk of a coup or about who was going to get what position. There was not a single military officer there. How could we discuss a coup?”

According to Matichon, the 7 attendees at the dinner were Piya, Surayud, Panlop, Ackaratorn, Charnchai Likhitjitta, Charan Pakdithanakul and Pramote Nakornthap. Each of these persons has had particularly high profile roles that have impacted political developments since April 2006.

Piya Malakul na Ayuthaya is a 72 year businessman with close palace connections. Matichon includes extensive details about Piya, in Thai. Other available information on this seemingly colourful and influential figure:

Paul Handley (Asia Sentinel, 8 September 2008: “The King Never Smiles: Book Excerpt”) refers to Piya’s role in 1992 and calls him the “king’s media adviser” and a “palace agent.” In the agitation over Thaksin’s letter to President Bush, Piya is mentioned as one of those who perhaps leaked the letter and promoted the response against Thaksin.

In a note to the McCargo and Ukrist book, The Thaksinization of Thailand, Piya and Pacific Intercommunications are mentioned. The company lost valuable contracts with the army after Thaksin reorganized the military hierarchy in late 2003 (also here). In the struggles for control of iTV, Piya, who was iTV’s vice chairman in charge of news operations, “was removed from the editorial board after he criticised the ‘politicisation in favour of the owner and candidate’,” referring to Thaksin.

When Pramual Rujanaseri’s controversial book (Phrarajaamnat or The Royal Prerogative) came out, the author stated that Piya, an editor at Advance Publishing Company, stated that the king liked his book. The book was very popular, not least amongst PAD leaders like Sondhi Limthongkul.

During his short time as prime minister in 2008, Samak Sundaravej claimed that a “half-bald man” he called Ai Terk was undermining the government and country. It is believed that he refered to Pin.

Thaksin names Prem

27 03 2009

The Nation has two reports about deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s phone-in to the red shirt rally on Friday. In the first report (27 March 2009: “Gen Prem is ‘influential person’ behind the coup”), Thaksin is said to have named Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond as being the so-called influential person who was active in trying to bring Thaksin’s government down. The report can be quoted at length:

“[Thaksin] criticised Prem during his video broadcast from unknown location that Gen Prem had intervened into the politics and did anything to bring him down.

Thaksin was speaking to thousands of red shirt protesters who gathered in front of the Government House.

He repeated his accusations that Prem, former PM Gen Surayud Chulanont, Privy Councillor Charnchai Likitjitta, Supreme Administrative Court President Akkarathorn Jularat and Pramote Nakhonthap attended a secret meeting which discussed about the coup.

Thaksin said HM the King was not aware of the meeting.”

At the time he first made these accusations, Thaksin used the term “influential person” or “person of charisma” and refused to name names, although the speculation was that it was Prem or the king himself. Thaksin even mentioned this “influential person” in a letter to then U.S. President George Bush. The letter was first mentioned by then senator and now Democrat MP Kraisak Choonhavan, who had close links with U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce. The letter and Bush’s reply were eventually published in Thailand and the debate on them filled the newspapers in July 2006.

In the second article (27 March 2009: “Thaksin called for Prem and Surayud to stop intervene in politics”) Thaksin called for Privy Councilors Prem and Surayud to “stop intervening in Thai politics, saying that is the only way to bring peace and stability to the country. Thaksin said that their interventions in the politics have brought country into chaos.”

The Bangkok Post (28 March 2009: “PM refuses to dissolve House”) also has a brief quote from Thaksin: “He (Gen Prem) put on the military uniform and went on a tour to attack me. Gen Surayud was also there,” Thaksin said. It is highly improper for a privy councillor to get involved in politics. It misleads people into thinking that the King is involved politically…”.

Channel News Asia (28 March 2009: “Former Thai premier Thaksin points finger of blame”), via AFP, reports on Thaksin’s speech. The report ends with a senior defence ministry official warning: “The army will not allow him to drag the institution (into politics)…”.

Prem and the 2006 coup allegations

24 03 2009

General Prem Tinsulanond, former unelected prime minister from 1980 to 1988 and now president of the Privy Council, has been implicated in the planning of the 2006 coup. There have been reports regarding this and they are appended below. Prem has denied his involvement.

In the Bangkok Post (24 March 2009: “Prem ignores Thaksin’s claims”), it is reported that, Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda has issued no instructions in response to Thaksin Shinawatra’s claim that two privy councillors were behind the 2006 military coup that toppled his government, a spokesman for the general said on Tuesday [Chris Baker has posted a translation of Thaksin’s main points at New Mandala]. Gen Prem’s personal secretary, Vice-Admiral Phajun Tamprateep, also said the two accused privy councillors — Gen Surayud Chulanont and Charnchai Likhitjitta — have not met Gen Prem to discuss the matter.”

Further, “Vice-Admiral Phajun said the Privy Council president was not worried by the accusation, nor was he angered by it. Gen Prem had not asked security agencies to closely monitor Thursday’s planned rally by the red-shirts, when Thaksin is expected to make another phone-in, he added.”

On Prem’s involvement in Thaksin’s ousting, it is noticeable that following the king’s declaration on the April 2006 election, the center of the opposition to Thaksin and the Thai Rak Thai government moved from PAD to Prem. Prem made a series of speeches criticising the government and Thaksin both before and after the coup (see the report at Thai Parliament and  New Mandala for a snippet that is also posted at General Prem’s website, but without links; in fact, Prem’s news site includes a range of similar reports, many of which seem to have gone from the Bangkok Post website). Prem was implicated in discussions with senior judges. His most explicit attack on the government was his 1 September 2006 speech to 950 cadets at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy where he said the soldiers belonged to the king, not a government. He was supported by military leaders and Privy Councilor and former army commander General Surayud Chulanont (read the speech here).

In late June 2006, Thaksin had made statements alleging that a “charismatic person” was working to bring his government down. Many assumed that this figure was General Prem or the king himself (The Nation, 4 July 2006; International Herald Tribune, 7 July 2006).

At about this time, the first public reports of a possible coup emerged as General Prem apparently held discussions with military figures and palace advisers (Straits Times, 8 July 2006). Soon after Prem visited the military units and demanded that officers be loyal to the king, powerful serving officers began a public campaign against Thaksin ( The Nation, 3 January 2007).

Much of the current lesé majesté controversy can be traced back to the events of the coup, the PAD’s use of royal symbols and the military junta’s expressions of royalism (including the use of yellow ribbons on weapons and tanks during the coup).

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