2010 Thailand Political Violence: 'Men in black' arrested

2010 Thailand Political Violence: 'Men in black' arrested
Five men suspected of being involved in the 2010 killing of then-Colonel Romklao Thuvatham appear before the press at the Royal Thai Police headquarters.

Police have arrested four men and one woman in connection with the killings of several soldiers in Bangkok, including Colonel Romklao Thuvatham, during the political unrest in 2010, and are hunting for two more two suspects.

Romklao was serving as deputy chief of staff of the Second Infantry Division of the Royal Guards. He was promoted posthumously to general.

All the suspects were involved in a firearm and grenade attack against troops dispatched to a protest rally in a small alley near the Democracy Monument on the night of April 10, 2010, Pol General Somyot Pumpunmuang, deputy National Police chief, said yesterday.

The attackers all wore black clothes and hoods, he said.

Earlier investigations into the 2010 disturbances found that armed men in dark attire, dubbed "men in black" by many people, had mingled with red-shirt protesters.

Somyot was speaking during a press conference at police headquarters attended by many senior police and military officers that was called to announce the arrest.

An eighth suspect has died, but Somyot did not state the cause.

Romklao's wife Nicha Hiranburana thanked Somyot for the arrests. She posted a long Facebook message saying she hoped the arrests would expose the mastermind of the attack that left five military officers dead and many others wounded.

Somyot said that under questioning, the suspects confessed that they participated in the attack. Investigators would next attempt to link the suspects to their accomplices and mastermind.

The arrests were the result of careful police investigation that led to a court-issued warrant, he said.

The suspects were identified as Kittisak Sumsri, 45, Preecha Yooyen, 24, Chamnan Pakeechai, 45, Ronnarit Suricha, 33, and Punika Choosri, 39, who are now under custody, while Wattanachok Chinpui, 23, and Thanadej Ekapiwat, 45, remain at large.

Police have identified a mastermind as Chakrarin Ruangsak-vichit, who is now wanted under an arrest warrant issued by the military court of Saraburi.

There is a connection between the suspects and Kritsuda Kunasen, a red-shirt leader who recently accused the junta of torturing her during military detention, Somyot said.

The suspects were charged with carrying war-grade weapons in public without a permit. They were handed over to Crime Suppression police for detention after the press conference.

The attack was plotted at a condominium on Ram-Inthra Road, Somyot said.

The assailants, armed with heavy weapons including an M79 grenade launcher, were taken to the scene of the attack in a van.

Kittisak, one of the suspects, said they had not known one another before joining the attack. They were not instructed to target any military officer in particular, he said.

During the press conference, the men were brought into the room wearing black clothes and hoods, while the woman was not made to dress in black.

Thanawut Wichaidit, spokesman for the red-shirt United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, said the red shirts were confident there were no "men in black" among their protesters during the unrest of 2010.

"We fight peacefully, and the red shirts had nothing to do" with the violent attack, he said.

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