Two men arrested following a grenade attack over the weekend in Thailand reportedly told police that the “Red Shirt” supporters of the toppled government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra were planning more bomb attacks on up to 100 targets in Bangkok, a security official said.
The two men were detained Saturday night after the grenade attack at the Criminal Court, which caused minor damage to the car park but no injuries. It was the second bomb blast to rock the country’s capital following Yingluck’s impeachment, with the first occurring last month when twin pipe bombs exploded outside the Siam Paragon shopping mall, injuring two people (The Diplomat reported on that incident here).
According to the Thai newspaper The Nation, the official said that the two detained suspects – Yuttana Yenpinyo and Mahahin Khuntong – had revealed that a network of “Red Shirts” had been planning a string of attacks against the current ruling junta, which took over the country following a coup in May 2014.
Yuttana said he was a member of a red-shirt group that communicated on a social network called Line, where they discussed a plot to bomb at least 100 places in the nation’s capital. Mahahin said that the targets included military armories in Chiang Mai and in the Northeast, university campuses and a temple.
Police have also said that they believe the two recent bomb blasts are linked and that the Red Shirts were involved. National Police spokeswoman Prawut Thavornsiri told Agence France-Presse that the attacks “have links with the Red Shirts,” while his superior, Police General Somyot Poompanmoung, said the blast was carried out by the “same network of people” responsible for the Paragon attack last month. Police say they are now hunting another man and two women from the same cell.
However, Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan dismissed the link, insisting that they were a non-violent movement and would have nothing to gain from carrying out such attacks under the already restrictive conditions of martial law.
“We are not involved. It would be a disadvantage to us… no one is that stupid,” he said on his daily television program.
Some have also expressed concern that the ruling junta may use these attacks as a basis for cracking down on some of its opponents.
On Monday, The Bangkok Post reported that the suspects had linked the attack to former army chief and supreme commander Chaiyasit Shinawatra, a member of the Shinawatra family, led by Yingluck’s self-exiled brother Thaksin. The junta detests the family, but it has won every national election since 2001.
But while Shinawatra had earlier admitted that he may know the girlfriend of one of the two detained suspects, he also accused the authorities of asking the suspects leading questions in order to link him to the bombing and vowed to defend himself in court.
“I am confident the justice system in Thailand will give the Shinawatra family a place to stand, instead of trying to link all people bearing the Shinawatra name to all bad things without reason,” he said.
Meanwhile, The Post also noted that Army and National Council for Peace and Order spokesman Winthai Suwaree said in an interview with Chulalongkorn University’s CU Radio that even though the suspects’ statements were “somewhat convincing,” authorities needed more time to gather the necessary evidence before taking next steps.
“Authorities have to correlate the suspects’ statements with other witnesses and evidence before pressing charges against… more people,” Winthai said.