'Red Radio' group behind PM assassination plot

'Red Radio' group behind PM assassination plot

Police launch hunt for Kotee, 5 other alleged conspirators

Wuthipong Kochathamakun aka Kotee is a former community radio DJ and is believed to be behind both this arms cache and the supposed plot to kill Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Wuthipong Kochathamakun aka Kotee is a former community radio DJ and is believed to be behind both this arms cache and the supposed plot to kill Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

A movement known as "Red Radio" has for several months been planning to assassinate Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said.

The suspected dissident group has also been working to stifle the authorities' efforts to investigate Wat Phra Dhammakaya by causing unrest there, he said.

Pol Gen Srivara said the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) is now seeking arrest warrants for six people who are suspected of being involved in the group including red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, who goes by the alias Kotee and is believed to have taken refuge in neighbouring Laos.

Despite Mr Wuthipong's name coming up it is not clear whether the group has ties to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the police said. The UDD's supporters are commonly called red shirts.

The group aims to kill Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit and had been told to attack military, police and other officials during the authorities' raids on the temple, according to the police investigation.

The temple has come under scrutiny as part of the ongoing search for former abbot Phra Dhammajayo, who is wanted on charges of money laundering, receiving stolen assets and forest encroachment in several provinces.

The six suspects are wanted by the CSD on several charges including the possession of military hardware, weapons of war and narcotics, and conspiring to commit a crime, said Pol Gen Srivara.

"Our investigation has shown that several of the suspects, detained previously, were spotted at Wat Phra Dhammakaya and nearby Khlong Luang central market, for reasons unknown," he said.

Last weekend, Thai authorities detained nine suspects during raids on nine spots in seven provinces and seized a huge cache of weapons and military hardware.

As police investigators have found no link between Mr Wuthipong or Red Radio and the temple, they believe the group's main goal has been to stir up unrest during the authorities' operations there, he added.

The temple on Tuesday denied any involvement with Mr Wuthipong or the group.

It also said there was no substance to media reports claiming it was concealing weapons at its Boon Raksa Building in the temple compound or the surrounding areas.

Gen Prayut said he was more concerned about the alleged assassination plots and the seizure of weapons of war.

He also expressed concern about the media exaggerating its news coverage on such sensitive issues, as this can undermine foreign investors' confidence in the country.

Some media outlets have said several dozen weapons were recovered during the raids while others have put the number as low as 10.

"I'm not saying the media should avoid reporting these things, but they should scale down their reports and stick to the facts," he said.

Justice Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said an M16 rifle seized at the weekend has been confirmed to be among the state weapons stolen during the red-shirt protest against the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration in April 2010.

He added Phra Dhammajayo has probably left the temple by now and could still be in the country.


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