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 18 Apr 2009

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Murder attempt rocks Thai capital

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced Friday that the state of emergency imposed on Bangkok and five neighboring provinces last Sunday will be maintained until public order is "genuinely" restored, Kyodo news agency reported.

The move came after a core leader of the massive protests against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was seriously wounded in a shooting in central Bangkok earlier in the day.

Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, was shot while heading to his office on Friday morning.

Sondhi was involved in anti-Thaksin protests in 2005 that led to the ousting of Thaksin in a military coup and in 2008 which prompted the overthrow of the democratically elected government that replaced military rule.

Speaking at a news conference, Abhisit denied the shooting had anything to do with the decision to maintain the emergency decree empowering the military to bring back normalcy. He said the emergency decree would be kept as short as possible but gave no specific time frame.

News websites showed pictures of Sondhi standing in front of his car after the attack, his face and shirt covered in blood.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the attack was an attempt to create more troubles in Thailand, where protests by the Red Shirts left at least two dead and 123 injured before being shut down by security forces Tuesday.

"There have been attempts to assassinate Sondhi as well as the government, including the prime minister and other leading figures, from time to time. Thus this is not new," Panitan told AFP.

The attack Friday morning by gunmen on a pickup truck also wounded a personal assistant to Sondhi and his driver, while their vehicle was badly damaged. At least 84 shell casings of various bullet types were found around the vehicle. The attackers managed to escape.

Most surveillance cameras in the area were damaged, city police said. Police officials said they are checking a surveillance camera which captured the pickup truck following Sondhi's vehicle before the shooting broke out.

Another People's Alliance for Democracy leader, Somsak Kosaisuk, told local radio that alliance leaders were being targeted by a group that had lost out because of the PAD campaign against Thaksin.

Somsak claimed the alliance knows who was behind the attack but plans to let the authorities handle the investigation. Sondhi, who owns a media company, was a founder of the People's Alliance for Democracy.

After a pro-Thaksin party won the general election that replaced the junta, PAD again took to the streets, occupied government buildings and shut down Bangkok's two main airports in late 2008.

The demonstrations ended after a Thai court ruled that the pro-Thaksin party in power had bought votes and the court ordered the party disbanded. Politicians aligned with the yellow-shirted PAD protesters then managed to get one of their own accepted as prime minister.





 

 

 

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