Thai hit men attack leader of last year’s street protests

Bangkok, April 17 (Inditop) Gunmen early Friday attacked Sondhi Limthongkul, one of the core leaders of last year’s mass protests that shut down Bangkok’s two main airports, riddling his car with more than 100 bullets but failed to kill him, police said.

Unidentified gunmen in a Toyota pickup truck sprayed Sondhi’s car with M-16 and AK-47 semi-automatic fire at 5.45 a.m. as the media tycoon was being driven to his ASTV television station, Police Colonel Khing Kwaengwhisetchaichang said.

“Sondhi was only slightly injured in his shoulder and by a bullet that grazed his forehead,” Khing said.

Doctors at Wachira Hospital conducted surgery on Sondhi’s forehead, which was fractured by the bullet.

“We have performed surgery and his condition is safe,” Wachira hospital director Chaiwan Charoenchokephawee said.

Sondhi’s driver, however, was listed to be in serious condition, while his bodyguard suffered minor injuries. The two gunmen fled the scene.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered stepped-up security at the hospital to protect Sondhi.

Sondhi, the owner of the Manager media group, was a core leader of the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement that held anti-government protests for six months in Bangkok last year culminating in their seizure of the capital’s two airports for a week, losing the country billions of dollars in tourism and export revenues.

The PAD was fanatically opposed to efforts to return fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to power and only ended their protests after the pro-Thaksin People Power Party was dissolved by a court ruling for election fraud.

The dissolution of the PPP put an end to the previous government, leading to the rise of a new government under Abhisit and his Democrat Party, who were in the opposition against Thaksin’s two-term premiership between 2001 to 2006 and the pro-Thaksin PPP-led government of 2008.

The attack on Sondhi comes in the wake of more than two weeks of protests led by the pro-Thaksin, red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) who blocked streets and burnt 20 public buses Monday.

The protests were quelled by army and police forces by Tuesday.

Altogether 123 people were injured in the melee and two were killed in a fight between red shirts and local Bangkok residents.

Three UDD leaders have been arrested and warrants issued for about 30 others including Thaksin, who has been living in self-exile since August 2008.

To date, no leader of the PAD has been held accountable for their protests last year.