Sondhi L Assassination Attempt
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Sondhi L Assassination Attempt

The first part of the article covers some of the ground that Thitinan wrote about in the Bangkok Post and the NYT, but on the political implications of the attempt on Sondhi L’s life:

Last Friday’s assassination/murder attempt on Sondhi Limthongkul, organizer of the yellow shirts, is murky. Naturally, theories and conspiracies abound. The use of war weapons (M16, AK-47 and M79) suggests military, but which faction/side faction remains conjecture.

/>Suffice it to say that the assassination attempt has raised political temperatures. Tellingly, Mr. Sondhi’s only son, Jintanart, indicated that it was a "third hand" bent on creating and exploiting a clash between reds and yellows to use as pretext for intervention and a power grab.  Whoever is responsible, the shooting has raised temperatures and is an indication that the crisis and turmoil will persist and could intensify. But this is also the first time that yellows are not blaming reds but in fact (based on Mr. Sondhi’s son’s account) the yellows are putting the reds in the same boat as mutual victims of this murder attempt.

BP: Anupong confirms today that cartridges from M-16 assault rifles found at the scene were from an army division in the First Army Region. Wassana in the Post adds that the attempt on Sondhi L’s life has hurt the military’s reputation

In a matter of days during the Songkran holiday the military has, in the perception of some people, switched from being a hero to a villain.

The soldiers were hailed by some as saviours of the country for their bloodless dispersal of the Songkran rioters on Bangkok’s streets, despite insistence to the contrary by the red-shirt protesters claiming to have been crushed by the armed personnel.
/>The army said the soldiers shot only blank bullets into the rampaging crowds and live rounds into the air. It has stood by its account that no one was killed by the soldiers during the operation although more than 120 people, including the soldiers, ended up injured.

The army’s assurance, however, has failed to lay to rest rumours and video circulated on the internet of army personnel loading wounded rioters onto military pick-up trucks and disappearing in the dead of night after a dispersal at the Din Daeng traffic junction on April 13

BP: One would hope that the person shooting live rounds into the air and those firing into the crowds don’t get their weapons mixed up.

Wassana continues:

Missing out on the praise, however, is Gen Anupong, whom critics said could have been the beneficiary of the military’s "heroic act".

Still, the glory was short-lived.

The attempt to shoot and kill Sondhi Limthongkul, the media baron and leader of the UDD’s arch rival, People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), on April 17 swung the military’s reputation back under a dubious light.

Gunmen brandishing war weapons opened fire at the car in which Mr Sondhi was travelling to the ASTV station to host his morning talk show. Mr Sondhi suffered head injuries but survived the hail of bullets, while his driver ended up in critical condition.

The brazen shooting has made a joke of the emergency law currently in effect in Bangkok, and the incident reinforced the belief of people, particularly the PAD supporters, that only uniformed men with the protection of higher-ups had the capacity to pull off such a high-profile murder attempt.

Ordinary gunmen would have turned down the contract to silence a figure of such political significance as Mr Sondhi.

The owner of the Manager media group helped build the PAD movement into a political force to be reckoned with and, in the process, accumulated high-powered enemies.

His verbal attacks, veiled and direct, were aimed at major players, including former prime minister Gen Surayud Chulanont and even influential palace insiders.

One of his latest targets was Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, said to be the prime minister-in-waiting who had struck a secret deal with the de facto leader of Bhumjaithai party, Newin Chidchob. Mr Sondhi put forth the theory of a possible emergence of the "blue" power bloc, which has rattled the nerves of the ruling Democrat party.

Mr Sondhi’s son Jittanart has openly cast suspicion – for the current chaotic state of the country including the plot on his father’s life – on "one of four groups of likely perpetrators". He mentioned the police, a coalition of new power forces he calls "the Gestapo," a military element working towards the creation of the "blue" power faction, and "the prime minister-aspirant".

But Mr Sondhi’s pounding has probably been hardest on Gen Anupong, upon whom he cast aspersions because of fraternal ties with convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is a fellow alumni at the Armed Forces Preparatory School. Gen Anupong was also chided for being impervious to some threatening political movements which Mr Sondhi said deserved a prompt response from the army.

The army chief has borne further wrath from the anti-Thaksin PAD over his comment that Mr Sondhi’s attempted murder was purely a criminal incident.

BP: Thanong’s latest theory is also that Anupong is now in cahoots with Thaksin. So Anupong is one of the key people behind the staging of the coup, he is calls on Somchai to resign (no call on Abhisit to resign), and played a key role in helping push the coalition parties to form a government with the Democrats. Now, suddenly he is in league with Thaksin. The only evidence offered was he was slow to act last week. Anupong also did nothing when PAD seized the airport even though the Governor of the province called the army to help. A more plausible theory on why the PAD were attacking Anupong was that he was not necessarily friendly to their own interests and PAD’s own people in the military.

Wassana continues:

Even though the credulity of the Sondhi-Thaksin hostility being linked to the shooting has been weighed, Thaksin may fall off the list of prime suspects. He rarely took a swipe at Mr Sondhi during his addresses to the red-shirt protesters while Mr Sondhi appears to have left Thaksin in peace of late as well.

BP: Oh then a Thaksin-Sondhi L alliance! :) (kidding) Actually, if Thaksin was planning to kill Sondhi L, the time would not be now, it would have been last year. Sondhi L has been turning his attention to Newin. If Newin’s press conference and recent attacks by him and those under him on Thaksin are somehow staged (and Thaksin and Newin are still secretly in cahoots) then they all deserve Oscars for their performance. Before these attacks, there were rumours of  – not there is a separate issue on whether MPs in the Newin and Thaksin camp are that hostile to each other in private, a number could switch. Thaksin’s big electoral threat now is not the Democrats it is Newin’s Bhum Jai Thai. It doesn’t hurt Thaksin for Sondhi L to be attacking Newin, particularly with a link to the military – BP doesn’t think that the military is the most popular institution to be aligned with in many parts of the Northeast. Newin is being hit from both sides – surely his appearance in Pattaya was because he felt he needed to do something, but instead he directly implicated himself with the blue shirts.

If Gen Panlop’s expose’ of the Sept 19, 2006 coup which toppled Thaksin was anything to go by, Mr Sondhi ought to be one of the few people with exclusive insight into the power revolt.

Mr Sondhi has unnerved people with potentially damaging revelations to share.

The assumption may be that Mr Sondhi simply knows too much and his existence no longer holds any purpose, with Thaksin’s danger to the country now somewhat weakened.

Mr Sondhi is also perceived by certain powerful elements to be a thorn in the side and a fighter to be eliminated when the war is over.

The reality, however, is that Mr Sondhi survived the murder attempt and no detail will be too small in his sure-to-come exposure of those he thinks tried to put him away forever.

The intrigue promises to be explosive enough to bring the house down.

BP: Thaksin said it was because he knows too much although said it was the government. BP doubts it was the government. It is more the hardcore elements in the military  Sondhi has already made some statements which can be found on YouTube. It wouldn’t be surprising if he has made other statements which have been frowned upon, but have not made their way online yet. Having created the "monster", they are left pondering what to do with him.

Counter-factual: Having said that, even if they had killed Sondhi L, wouldn’t PAD be still hot on the trail of who did it? Now, this attack damages the army so who gains? The police? Nevertheless, maybe they thought suspicion would fall on Thaksin/UDD (Kasit has openly accused Thaksin) and read the PAD wrongly.

Such a hit on such a high figure could not have been done by someone small either although BP doubts it goes up to Anupong’s level (won’t even speculate on higher possibilities), but it could not have been far off. Anupong was previously Deputy Commander of the First Army Region and then Commander before becoming Army C-in-C (see where the bullets came from!). He surely knows more about this than he is letting on, but BP believes the more likely possibility is that it is a rival of Anupong would be behind it. It would be a rival who has the most to gain.