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Thai PM Says Assassination Attempt Part Of A Coup

Thai PM Says Assassination A Coup Attempt


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- After surviving what he described as an assassination attempt, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Friday (August 25) a car bomb, packed with explosives near his house, was a plot by military officers to stage a coup.

"There are three to four military officers involved in the assassination plot," Thaksin told reporters on Friday (August 25).

"We know which group made [the bomb], and more suspects will be arrested," the billionaire prime minister said.

"There is a movement to bring the government to collapse and to kill the government's leader," Defense Minister General Thammarak Isarangkun told journalists.

"These people aim to take power to lead the country," the defense minister said without naming the culprits.

Thaksin immediately fired the military's Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) deputy chief, Pallop Pinmanee, on Thursday (August 24) after Pallop's former driver was arrested by police in the bomb-laden car.

Tough-talking Pallop was trained in the United States, and worked alongside the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in America's "secret war" in Laos, during the U.S.-Vietnam War, according to the Bangkok Post.

Police investigators spent Friday (August 25) examining the dangerous contents of the Daewoo car.

They seized the vehicle while it was stopped a few blocks from Thaksin's residence on Thursday (August 24) morning -- along the route the prime minister's motorcade usually follows -- on a busy street in front of shops and under a vehicle flyover.

Police showed reporters 4.5 kilograms of TNT, and 1.5 kilograms of C-4 explosives, shaped into rectangles wrapped in clear plastic and black electrical tape.

The TNT was found in the passenger compartment, and the C-4 hidden in the car's trunk, police said.

Police also displayed 13 turquoise plastic containers, labeled as lubricant, but filled with more than 67 kilograms of mixed ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel, found in the car.

A remote control detonating device was also shown, along with a detonating circuit, two M-8 military fuses, and more than 12 meters of black detonating wire.

Police said it would take about one hour to wire the bomb's components.

In the car, police also found several sand bags, for constructing a wall inside the vehicle to direct the explosion toward Thaksin's motorcade, police said.

"If detonated, things within a kilometer radius would have been damaged by the explosion," Bangkok Police Chief Viroj Chantharangsee told reporters.

"Anything within 30 to 40 meters would be blown to dust. No one would survive, and the Bang Phlat flyover would evaporate," Viroj said.

Police arrested Thawatchai Klinchana -- an army lieutenant in the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) -- on Thursday (August 24) while he sat in the driver's seat of the bomb-packed car.

"The car left the Internal Security Operations Command early in the morning," Police Lieutenant General Achirawit Supanpesat told reporters on Friday (August 25).

Thawatchai was initially charged with possessing explosive materials without a permit.

Investigators on Friday (August 25) tried to determine if Thawatchai could be charged with attempting to assassinate the prime minister and plotting to detonate a car bomb.

Thawatchai, 43, pleaded innocent and denied knowing the car carried explosives.

A few months earlier, Thawatchai was the personal driver of Pallop at the Defense Ministry.

"Who would be crazy enough to do this?" retired general Pallop, 70, said at a news conference while denying any link to the bomb plot.

"I used to lead Ranger troops. I fought in wars," said Pallop, a fearsome figure with slicked-back hair and thick eyebrows, and whose name is sometimes spelt Panlop.

"If I had really orchestrated this, I wouldn't have done it this way. My plot would have been much more sophisticated. If I had done it, I guarantee that the prime minister wouldn't have survived my assassination attempt," an angry Pallop said.

Pallop studied "the Ranger course, and a counter-intelligence course, in the U.S. before being appointed in 1968 as chief of the Special Thai Ranger Army -- which carried out clandestine, anti-North Vietnam operations in Laos -- for one year," the Bangkok Post said on Friday (August 25).

"Pallop once admitted that he was behind a series of assassination attempts against then army strongman General Arthit Kamlangek," the paper said.

"It's my lucky day. I have been varying my travel times after the intelligence services told me people were trying to kill me," the unharmed prime minister told reporters on Thursday (August 24).

"If I hadn't left an hour earlier than usual, I might not be here now," Thaksin said.

"I learned about the plot to harm me and my family two weeks ago."

Thaksin, a controversial U.S. ally, was expected to be re-elected in a national election tentatively scheduled for October 15.

*************

Copyright by Richard S. Ehrlich, who has reported news from Asia for the past 28 years, and is co-author of the non-fiction book of investigative journalism, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is http://www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent
-ENDS-

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