National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda displays a cache of weapons seized from nine locations in the Central and Northeast regions at a press conference at the Royal Thai Police headquarters yesterday.
Fugitive red-shirt claims govt set up weapons raid
March 20, 2017 01:00 By The Nation
Police chief says ‘Ko Tee’ sought to mobilise masses, planned violence and assassinations
Fugitive red-shirt leader Wutthipong Kachathamkhun, alias Ko Tee, whose house was raided for weapons on Saturday, has defended himself through a YouTube-based radio programme suggesting that the raid was a government set-up.
However, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd denied this.
And national police chief Pol General Chaktip Chaijinda insisted yesterday that the seizure of military-grade firearms was linked to moves at Dhammakaya Temple and red-shirt networks.
Chaktip said more weapons are expected to be found hidden in unidentified shipping containers near Bangkok, even though further raids yesterday at several container yards found no firearms.
The police chief said Wutthipong is believed to be behind groups that have instigated mobs of supporters to oppose the government crackdown on Dhammakaya Temple.
He said they also had plans to assassinate national leaders, including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and deputy premier Prawit Wongsuwan. They had also violated the lese majeste law through content on their radio programme.
Chaktip and other senior police put the firearms seized in the raid on Saturday on display yesterday. He was joined by several senior officers, including Pol Maj-General Sombat Milintajinda, the deputy chief of First Region Provincial Police.
Sombat said one of nine people now in custody was at Dhammakaya Temple when Wutthipong and others were moving to mobilise temple followers to oppose the government crackdown.
Police said there were also plans to assassinate national leaders based on a YouTube radio programme hosted by a person using the alias Sahai Ma Noi.
Container yards searched
In the raid on Saturday, police seized four M-16 rifles, one M79 grenade launcher, and 13 guns, plus 5,000 rounds of ammunition, three red-shirt banners and other material deemed to violate the lese majeste law.
However, Wutthipong denied the government’s allegations, saying in his YouTube radio programme titled “Fight for the Federation” that the raid was arranged by authorities.
The house in Pathum Thani that was raided was once occupied by Wutthipong. Authorities arrested Thirachai Udonwichian, 55, from Samut Prakan, at the premises.
The police operation continued yesterday with searches at container yards in Samut Prakan province.
Soldiers and police sifted through around 3,000 shipping containers as they attempted to find a specific container identified by shipping documents as stored in one of the yards since 2014. However, authorities found no more weapons yesterday.
Maj-General Piyapong Klinphan, spokesman of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said the raid on a house formerly occupied by the red-shirt leader should not affect ongoing reconciliation efforts, as it was part of the government’s policy to maintain law and order.
Police said the latest raids stem from intelligence suggesting that Wutthipong and accomplices have amassed weapons to prepare for violence and planned to fight authorities if the Dhammakaya Temple complex was seized.
Meanwhile, Wutthipong has been using social media to criticise the government’s performance and the NCPO’s work while urging Dhammakaya followers to oppose authorities.