Political motive suspected in shooting of red-shirt leader Kwanchai

Local Thai 'Red Shirt' leader and radio show host Kwanchai Praipana in his daily show at the studio of his 'We Love Udon' group.

THAILAND - Police suspect politics was the motive for the shooting attack that injured top red-shirt hard-liner Kwanchai Praipana in his home province of Udon Thani yesterday.

Kwanchai, a local radio presenter, has played an active role in mobilising supporters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) in the Northeast.

Kwanchai was reading a newspaper in front of his home near the Khon Rak Udon group radio station at 10am when at least two assailants in a pick-up truck fired 42 bullets at him with an AK-47 assault rifle from about 100 metres outside the fence.

Udon Thani police chief Pol Maj-General Boonleu Korbangyang said the Khon Rak Udon group chairman was wounded in his right arm and leg and taken to Aek Udon Hospital. As red-shirt supporters crowded the hospital to |get updates, Kwanchai was reported to be stable and recovering. Police also set up checkpoints on a stretch of road in Nong Khai heading towards the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, to which |the suspects' truck was reportedly heading.

Boonleu said Kwanchai's house was previously attacked by two dud hand grenades.

Kwanchai had organised several movements and forums in the region to support the February 2 general election in opposition to the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)'s demand for the resignation of the caretaker government and national reform before the election.

Kwanchai has a number of rivals, including several red-shirt groups not under his supervision, and Udon Thani politicians. He also made negative comments recently against senior military officers.

Another red-shirt hard-liner, Yossawaris Chuklom, aka Jeng Dokchik, said Kwanchai's shooting might be a result of the ongoing political conflict because Kwanchai was very vocal in his opinions.

"I want to tell those behind this attack that we are all Thais. Even though we have different political points of view, there is no need to use violence like this shooting. I think we are in 'violence mode', and even I have to be cautious from now on," he added.

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