Plot to kill Thai PM a setup by police, says exiled Red Shirt

Published: 4:00 AM, March 21, 2017

BANGKOK — An exiled Red Shirt opponent of Thailand’s junta yesterday accused police of trying to set him up after they found a cache of weapons linked to a plot to kill the Prime Minister, as the authorities continued their search for more firearms.

The government said it would seek Mr Wuthipong Kochathamakun’s extradition from neighbouring Laos and pledged to stop anything which could cause unrest in Thailand.

“They’re trying to force terrorism charges on me,” Mr Wuthipong said in an interview posted on YouTube. “This is a very poorly done setup.”

Police found over a dozen guns, around 6,000 bullets, knives, drugs, grenades and other contraband over the weekend that they said belonged to Mr Wuthipong, who was part of the violent anti-government protests in 2010 that paralysed Bangkok for three months, and killed around 90 civilians and six soldiers.

Nine men were arrested over the weekend in connection with the seizures. Mr Wuthipong said he knew only one of them, but police said all nine were connected to him.

Mr Krisana Pattanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman, said police officers were halfway through searching over 2,000 shipping containers at noon yesterday where they believe more weapons were kept. During the weekend’s seizure, police also discovered red fabric banners with Mr Wuthipong’s nickname printed on them.

The police drew a link from their discovery not only to the Red Shirt supporters of ousted populist leader Thaksin Shinawatra, but also to an influential Buddhist temple that is at odds with the authorities.

They did not give details of the alleged plot to kill junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha but said they had discovered the weapons at a house belonging to Mr Wuthipong, who fled Thailand at the time of the coup.

“I don’t believe he has the kind of military calibre to intend to harm the Prime Minister,” said Mr Jatuporn Prompan, a leader of the Red Shirt movement.

The government played down any risk to General Prayuth’s life, but said it would act against any threats to stability as it tries to bring about political reconciliation before eventual elections. “Whatever causes unrest, we will put it out,” Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said.

He said Mr Wuthipong was wanted on weapons charges. “I want him, and will ask Laos to hand him over.”

Police also said yesterday there had been a plan to potentially use the arms against security forces at the Dhammakaya temple, where they were searching for the former abbot on money-laundering charges. AGENCIES