The prime minister of Thailand extended a state of emergency Friday and pledged to launch an investigation into the assassination attempt on a prominent protest leader that occurred earlier in the day.
Media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul, founder of the ‘yellow-shirts’ movement that toppled the previous government, was ambushed in the early morning by gunmen in a pickup truck without a license plate. They opened fire on Sondhi's vehicle with automatic weapons at about 5 a.m. as he was heading to work to host a television program.
Sondhi's PAD movement has been instrumental in toppling two Thaksin-aligned governments, most recently in late 2008 when his "yellow shirts" overran Bangkok's two international airports. One of the demands of the red shirts, in addition to the resignation of Abhisit, has been the prosecution of the ringleaders of the airport seizures. Sondhi and Thaksin are former business partners and, according to reports, onetime friends.
Major General King Kwangvisetchaichai said the assailants first aimed to shoot out the car's tires before riddling it with as many as 100 bullets. Sondhi, who founded the protest movement known as the People's Alliance for Democracy, or PAD, was shot in the shoulder and had a bullet surgically removed from his skul
Police say they recovered 84 bullet casings from AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles. A dud M-79 shell was also found, according to local media.
"I have already ordered authorities to check how it is that war weapons emerged and were used in the capital," Prime Minsiter Abhisit Vejjajiva said.
Battlefield weapons were also seen across downtown Bangkok on Monday as government troops dislodged red-shirted anti-government forces from sites they occupied around the capital, including their last redoubt at Government House, the office of the prime minister.
The brazen attack on Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the "yellow-shirt" movement that helped topple Thailand's government three years ago, has raised political temperatures that had started to cool after rioting by rival "red-shirt" protesters was quelled earlier in the week.
Bangkok remained under emergency rule and security was tightened around Abhisit, who said the assassination attempt on Sondhi should not serve as an excuse for more conflict.
"We are concerned by the shooting obviously. We've got to restore order," Abhisit said. "We do not want this to be used to create a wider conflict."
AP, Thai protest leader stable after shooting, 18 April 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g3j-vAVG1fg3kEfnogTiH8...
LA Times, Thailand Extends State of Emergency, 18 April 2009, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-thailand18-2009apr18...