Police discover plot to kill Thai PM

Police discover plot to kill Thai PM
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Photo: AFP
Published: 4:00 AM, March 20, 2017
Updated: 11:36 AM, March 20, 2017

BANGKOK — Thai police said on Sunday (Mar 19) that they had uncovered a plot to assassinate the country’s prime minister after seizing a weapons cache belonging to a fugitive anti-junta activist.

It is the latest discovery of a weapons stockpile belonging to a member of the red-shirt movement, a political group loyal to exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Police on Saturday (Mar 18) found dozens of rifles and grenades, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, at a house belonging to red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, who has been on the run since the military coup of 2014.

Police also arrested nine men in connection with the arms seizure, saying they had clear evidence the suspects and their extended network were aiming to cause unrest.

“We found a rifle with a scope. We guarantee that this is not to shoot at birds, but was going to be used to assassinate the leader of the country,” national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said on Sunday, referring to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

Gen Prayuth, then the army chief, overthrew the government of Mr Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, in a 2014 coup. His junta discovered dozens of weapon caches belonging to groups they said were loyal to the Shinawatra clan.

The junta said the stockpiles showed that there were groups trying to create instability, and justified their seizure of power.

Mr Chakthip presented no other evidence of an assassination plot, but said that Mr Wuthipong and his network had always opposed the junta and the group had predicted on social media that the prime minister would be killed.

Police said the group was planning an ambush if officials had continued their operations against an influential Buddhist temple, which is seen as having close ties to Mr Thaksin.

Police ended their search of the Dhammakaya Temple earlier this month after laying siege to it for more than three weeks without finding the former abbot, who is wanted for suspected money-laundering.

Meanwhile, a man who claimed to be Mr Wutthipong has insisted that the huge cache of weapons discovered did not belong to him and that the entire operation was a set-up by the authorities.

In an audio recording posted on YouTube, the man said that he felt sorry for his aide who was arrested during the raid, adding that he was being framed by the government.

 “Why would I accumulate the weapons like that in the heart of the city?” he asked.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd has denied the allegation of the raid being a set-up. AGENCIES