Thai police told of bomb plots by red shirts

Thai police told of bomb plots by red shirts

BANGKOK - Two men arrested for throwing a hand grenade at the Criminal Court on Saturday night claimed that red shirts were plotting more bomb attacks on up to 100 targets in Bangkok, a security official said yesterday.

Yuttana Yenpinyo and Mahahin Khunthong were caught soon after the attack and detained under martial law.

The red shirts are members of a political movement that supported the administration of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Police are seeking arrest warrants for Veerasak Towangchorn, a man alleged to have brought them the grenade used on Saturday, and two women - Nattapat Onming and Thatchapan Pokklong - after the two men incriminated them.

The grenade drama on Saturday night was the second bomb attack in the capital after Yingluck was impeached in January by the National Legislative Assembly over her failure to stop corruption in the rice-pledging scheme.

The first blast occurred in the middle of the Siam shopping mecca, at the Skytrain station, early last month.

Under interrogation by police and military, Yuttana said Nattapat had hired a man called 'Big', whose real name he did not know, and Mahahin to throw a bomb into the courthouse, but the two took the money and failed to act.

Yuttana said he then agreed to carry out the attack for Bt10,000 (S$424) because he wanted the money to give to his girlfriend for medical expenses in giving birth to their child.

Nattapat said she would give him the money after he completed the job.

Yuttana said 'Big' gave him a round, brown object he believed to be a home-made device with the explosive power of a 'ping-pong bomb'. 'Big' taught Yuttana how to use it.

Mahahin agreed to drive the motorcycle, saying his hand was not in good shape and not strong enough to throw a heavy object.

Yuttana hurled the bomb into the court on Ratchadaphisek Road as he was passing on the back of the motorcycle.

Yuttana said he was a member of a red-shirt group that communicated on a social network called Line. They discussed a plot to bomb at least 100 places, mostly in the capital, through the application Line, Yuttana claimed.

Mahahin said targets also included military armouries in Chiang Mai and in the Northeast, university campuses and Wat Or Noi temple.

Metropolitan Police chief Lt-General Srivara Ransibrahman-akul said they believed the latest attack was politically motivated. The attackers used a RGD-5 grenade, which was not official issue. After committing the crime and trying to escape, the two resisted arrest and threw a bomb at security officials following them, he said.

Pol Colonel Kamthorn Ucharoen, an EOD superintendent, said police were checking if the grenade used on Saturday was connected with one used in the Banthadthong area during a previous political protests.

Police suspect the two men carried at least two guns because a .357 pistol, which had been fired twice, and two 9mm cartridges were found at the Attorney-General's Office building on Ratchadaphisek Road.

Maj General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, deputy government spokesman, said officials arrested the suspects soon after the incident because after the blast at the Skytrain Siam station, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had instructed officials to exercise their authority to prevent such bomb attacks.

Colonel Winthai Suvari, a spokesman for both the National Council for Peace and Order and the Army, said the suspects were nabbed quickly because officials had received intelligence from the public and state agencies about possible bomb attacks.

They had name lists of all suspects and had them observed and followed for some time till these two were caught after committing the crime on Saturday night.

"They plotted the attack with the intention to instigate violence, foment terror, intimidate and disturb the peace without fear of the arm of the law. Those linked to the incident will be rounded up to face justice," he said.

Dr Cherdchai Tantisirin, a former Pheu Thai party-list MP, rejected the allegation that the grenade attack at the court had anything to do with the red-shirt movement. He blamed an ill-intentioned group, which may not be satisfied with the government's performance or its handling of some issues such as religious reform, economic woes and the imposition of martial law.

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