Rally guards hurt top soldier

Rally guards hurt top soldier

Officer shot at, beaten after removing barrier

A senior military officer attached to the Supreme Command was injured early yesterday in an attack by anti-government protest guards on Chaeng Watthana Road.

Col Witthawat Wattanakul, deputy director for the International Relations division under the Directorate of Joint Intelligence, was admitted to Mongkutwattana General Hospital at 1.30am yesterday with facial bruising and bullet fragment wounds to the feet.

Hospital staff said Col Witthawat dismissed initial reports that the soldier had been shot, but said that bullet fragments had entered his ankles.

Cdr Natthapol Wattanakul, the victim's younger brother, said Col Witthawat was attacked after exiting his car to remove a barrier placed near the anti-government protest site on Chaeng Watthana Road.

He said Col Witthawat heard some gunshots before a group of men came towards him and assaulted him. The attackers were dressed "like protest guards", Cdr Natthapol quoted his brother as saying.

He said a complaint was lodged with Thung Song Hong police station and the attack was reported to his brother's supervisors.

Pol Col Thanawat Wattanakul, the victim's elder brother, said Col Witthawat was in stable condition and he would soon be transferred to Phra Mongkut Hospital.

He said his brother warned the attackers to hold fire, but was ignored. The men then assaulted him, stopping only after searching the car and discovering Col Witthawat's identification card, he added.

Directorate of Joint Intelligence chief Sihanat Wongsaroj said guards at the Chaeng Watthana protest site had apologised for the assault.

He said the guards thought Col Witthawat was launching an attack on protesters.

Supreme Commander Tanasak Patimapragorn yesterday ordered authorities to step up security near the Supreme Command headquarters and for officers who need to travel through the protest venue.

He also instructed them to coordinate with the protest guards and advise military personnel about road blocks and security checkpoints to avoid a repeat of the assault.

Meanwhile, the Thai Journalists Association yesterday condemned a grenade attack at the head office of the Daily News newspaper on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

The attack was reported shortly before 9pm on Thursday night. The grenade, believed to have been fired from the road, landed on the ground and caused minor damage to the building's walls and air-conditioners.

The TJA urged police to speed up their investigation into the attack, which it said posed a serious threat to the press and its members.

The association noted the attack on Daily News was not the first against a media outlet and police had so far failed to bring any culprits to justice.

It called for an end to violence and asked those affected by media coverage to resort to legal action instead of violence.

Daily News also issued a statement denouncing the grenade attack and calling on authorities to launch a quick investigation.

The newspaper condemned the attack as an act of intimidation against press freedom and urged a swift resolution to political conflict.

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