Red shirt-Dhammakaya connection: Kotee in hiding
A massive cache of mostly military arms, ammunition and explosives, laid out on a table suggesting a link to hardcore red shirt Wuthipong 'Kotee' Kochathamakun is the key element in a plot to kill the prime minister, according to the national police chief. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul); Inset: Wuthipong 'Kotee' Kochathamakun: Last seen in public in early 2014, before the military coup.
Arrest of followers of armed red shirt leader Kotee, said to be traveling from Dhammakaya to Cambodia where Kotee is in hiding after arrest warrant issued years ago.
ILLEGAL WEAPONS OF WAR & SECRET PLOTS
Red shirt-Dhammakaya connection: Kotee in hiding in Cambodia
Police believe a huge cache of mostly military weapons retrieved on Saturday were intended to be used against authorities who had laid siege to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, including a plot to kill Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The weapons were taken from a Pathum Thani house linked to hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee.
POLICE THEORY ABOUT WEAPONS STASH: GATHERING WEAPONS TO HELP DHAMMAKAYA
National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said Sunday that some of the seized weapons had been taken from soldiers during the violent red-shirt political protests in mid-town Bangkok in 2010.
The weapons were being prepared for a potential attack against officers that had surrounded and were searching Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani's Khlong Luang district, he said.
Specifically, he claimed, the weapons were prepared to "harm or assassinate" the country's leader, Gen Prayut, he claimed.
Kotee has allegedly played a leading role in gathering weapons to support the temple and as such must be considered a threat to national security, Pol Gen Chakthip said.
KOTEE DENIES THEY ARE HIS WEAPONS
A YouTube audio clip by a man claiming to be Kotee denied the arms belonged to him.
The operation is a disinformation campaign to frame red shirts as an armed group, according to Dr. Weng Tojirakarn, co- leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
Medics carry a protester, shot by gunmen linked to Kotee, to an ambulance after their convoy was attacked leaving the Chaeng Watthana protest site in April 2014. (AP Photo)
FUGITIVE KOTEE HIDING IN ANOTHER COUNTRY
Mr Wuthipong is believed to be in hiding (holed up) in an "neighbouring country", known to be Cambodia although the police chief refused to name it.
Mr Wuthipong, a Pathum Thani-based community radio DJ before he became notorious over clashes with the military, is wanted on a lese majeste charge.
Kotee had participated in a very inflammatory and explicit interview on the topic of the monarchy with the US news organization VICE.
During the same time, he was in the news over armed conflicts with groups of protesters, allegedly shooting up the bus of a group of Chaeng Wattana protesters. Before the attack a message was posted:
"...Yim Tasawang, a hardcore member of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), posted his message on the Lungyim Tasawang Facebook page at 11am: ''Dont' stay close to Lung Kamnan [Suthep] today. There's a report that a team led by Ko Tee [Kotee] has khanom (sweets) from the border waiting on their way back on the expressway.''"
Then in typical fashion, Kotee's involvement in the shooting was denied:
"However, the red-shirt member later denied any involvement. ''I warned you since this morning not to take the expressway. I'm not involved in this,'' he said on the same page after the shooting." (see here)
A warrant was issued for Kotee's arrest in April, 2014.
The injured lie in a pickup truck after a group of anti-government protesters were ambushed and attacked by group connected to Kotee.
CAMBODIA WOULD NOT HELP THAILAND EXTRADITE KOTEE
The arrest warrant for Kotee came two months after a bitter attack on then-army commander Gen Prayut by Kotee in a radio broadcast.
He said Gen Prayut had ordered his death, and he left the country for Cambodia on Feb 1, 2014, the day before an attempted national election by the government of then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Pol Gen Chakthip said police had tried to contact "the neighbouring country" (Cambodia) for Mr Wuthipong's extradition, but had received no helpful reply.
DEFINITELY NOT JUST A BIRD SHOOTING GUN
"An investigation found people in Kotee's group were preparing to use weapons to assassinate the government's leading figures including Gen Prayut," Pol Gen Chakthip said Sunday.
"We found a rifle with a scope. We guarantee that this is not to shoot at birds but was going to be used to assassinate the leader of the country," said Pol Gen Chakthip.
"If the government uses force to suppress people in Wat Phra Dhammakaya, the armed group would be ready to help the temple and hurt officers."
INTELLIGENCE: KOTEE'S MEN TRAVELING BETWEEN DHAMMAKAYA & CAMBODIA
Pol Gen Chakthip said Mr Wuthipong has played a role in inciting people to fight against the monarchy, and he is a supporter of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.
Officials found people in Mr Wuthipong's network had been entering and leaving the temple prior to the siege and had been meeting him in the neighbouring country.
RAIDS ON NINE LOCATIONS IN SEVEN PROVINCES: KOTEE'S NETWORK ARRESTED
Pol Gen Chakthip was speaking at a news conference called Sunday to expand on raids on nine locations in seven provinces as part of follow-up to the seizure of the war weapons on Saturday morning.
Also present were deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, Pol Maj Gen Sombat Milintachinda, deputy commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 1, and Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang, chef of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
Nine people were arrested during Saturday's raids, all of whom were in Mr Wuthipong's network, according to officers.
The suspects, now in military custody, are Theerachai Utarawichian, 55, Prathuang On-lamun, 58, Palida Ruangsuwan, 62, Wanchaichana Krutchaiyan, 56, Aem-on Watkaew, 44, Thossapol Ketkosol, 25, Udomchai Nopsawas, 60, SM1 Thanachot Wongjanchompoo, 57 and Suriyasak Chatpitakkul, 49.
Pol Maj Gen Sombat said these people had joined the 2010 red-shirt political rally in central Bangkok.
KOTEE TRIED TO MOBILISE WAT DHAMMAKAYA FOLLOWERS
Mr Wuthipong, meanwhile, tried to mobilise Wat Phra Dhammakaya's followers to fight officers who were searching the temple and had formed a group in preparation for a clash, he said.
One of the nine suspects was found to have showed up to the temple before, Pol Maj Gen Sombat said.
Pol Col Paisit said police and the DSI have always suspected that political groups have operated in Wat Phra Dhammakaya and intelligence from both agencies points to allegations they had tried to cause unrest.
Meanwhile, a man who claimed to be Mr Wuthipong insisted the huge cache of weapons retrieved on Saturday from the Pathum Thani house did not belong to him, saying the seizure was only staged to incriminate people in his network.
Speaking via YouTube in an audio recording, he said he felt sorry for his aide who was arrested during the raid.
This framed charge is an example of injustice, which occurs again and again in Thailand, he said.
"Why would I accumulate the weapons like that in the heart of the city?" asked the man, whose identity could not be confirmed.
Nonetheless, at some time there must have been a stash or cache of weapons in the center of Bangkok because from 2010 to 2014 there was a continual stream of shooting, bombing and grenade launcher incidents in Bangkok.
WHY SEARCH THE HOUSE NOW?
Dr. Weng Tojirakarn, co-leader of the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), questioned why officers only now decided to search the house, three years after Mr Wuthipong faced charges.
Authorities were attempting to link the discovery of the weapons with Wat Phra Dhammakaya and the UDD without evidence, he said, adding it was clear that efforts have been made to frame the red-shirts as an armed group.
Mr Weng insisted Mr Wuthipong had nothing to do with the UDD movement.
WELL-KNOWN THAT RED SHIRTS DID HAVE ARMED FACTIONS
However, it is well known that the red shirts have ,many different factions, that is many claim to be red shirts, but perhaps are not strongly connected into any unified organization.
There are peaceful factions and political actors such as Dr. Weng and there have also been factions associated with guns, bombs and grenade launchers such as that of Kotee and the rogue active duty military officer and red shirt leader Sae Daeng who was assasinated by a sniper during the protests.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the prime minister instructed officials to proceed with the case and bring the owners of the seized weapons to justice.