Police link 'PT lawyer' to suspect

Police link 'PT lawyer' to suspect

Party denies direct engagement

The Pheu Thai Party headquarters on Phetchaburi Road (Photo by Phrakrit Juntawong)
The Pheu Thai Party headquarters on Phetchaburi Road (Photo by Phrakrit Juntawong)

Police on Saturday claimed a lawyer connected to the Pheu Thai Party once sought bail for Odd Phayungwong, a Thai suspect wanted in connection with August’s Bangkok bombings.

The bomb at the Erawan Shrine on Aug 17 killed 20 and injured 130, while another explosion at the Sathon pier harmed no one the following day. Mr Odd is one of 17 suspects facing arrest warrants over the incidents. Mr Odd was sentenced to one year in prison on May 21, 2010, for violating the emergency decree during the 2010 red shirt protests.

Mr Odd, who appealed the sentence, was granted bail five days later with a 40,000-baht surety placed by Boonchaliew Dusadee, who is the lawyer of several Pheu Thai Party executives, a police investigator said.

The party yesterday denied he was ever engaged as a lawyer.

According to a source, Mr Boonchaliew once represented Thaksin Shinawatra and his ex-wife Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra when they sued Nam Yimyaem, the former chairman of the now defunct Assets Scrutiny Committee, and 17 others for abuse of power as they carried out a probe into the 2003 Ratchada land deal scandal.

Thaksin was later convicted under the anti-graft law for a conflict of interest over the land deal and sentenced to a two-year jail term.

“A probe must be carried out to determine the issue following the report that Mr Boonchaliew sought bail for Mr Odd,” said police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri. “If that was true, he would be called for questioning as part of the efforts to track down Mr Odd and bring him to justice.”

Mr Boonchaliew, the source said, was also assigned by former Pheu Thai leader Yongyuth Wichaidit to lodge a defamation suit against former House speaker Arthit Urairat, who was accused of defaming the party in the lead-up to the 2011 election.

Mr Boonchaliew, the source said, is also defending former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a case where she was accused by the National Anti-Corruption Commission of approving financial assistance to people affected by the 2005-2010 political demonstrations without a legal basis.

Mr Boonchaliew could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The police source said Mr Odd told Talat Phlu police when he was arrested in 2010 that he stayed at a big house in the area. Officers recently inspected that house and found up to 27 people living there, but none of them knew or had seen Mr Odd.

Talat Phlu police had descended on the area in force and questioned local residents in an effort to trace Mr Odd, the source said.

However, Chavalit Wichayasut, Pheu Thai's acting deputy secretary-general, said he did not know Mr Boonchaliew and he was never the party’s lawyer. He added that from 2009-2010, many lawyers voluntarily helped red shirt protesters who faced charges and Mr Boonchaliew might have been one of them.

Key red shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said Mr Boonchaliew was not a lawyer for the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship and he did not know if he worked for Pheu Thai.

But he said it was possible that several lawyers, including those from the UDD and Pheu Thai, had played roles in helping the red shirts during the protests in 2010 and Mr Odd may have been among the people they helped.

A source close to Mr Boonchaliew said he is not a lawyer, but had assisted a legal team that helped the red shirts in many cases.

He said the situation during the 2010 protests was hectic as many red shirts were arrested. He said Mr Boonchaliew does not know Mr Odd personally.

“At the time, Mr Boonchaliew sought bail for many people, but I cannot confirm whether or not he sought bail for Mr Odd,” said the source.

Mr Nattawut also said photos circulated on social media of a man in black during the red shirt demonstrations were said to be of Mr Odd, but that was an attempt to create a political motive for the deadly blast at the Erawan Shrine. The man in the photos was Manop Chanchangthong, or Ped, who was accused of being among the black-clad men on April 10, 2010, Mr Nattawut said on Facebook.

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