(18 January) The Royal Thai Police have denied the allegation that they were involved in the grenade attack on anti-government protesters yesterday.
The incident took place as supporters of People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) were marching on Banthat Thong Road, near the financial district of Bangkok, to invite citizens to join their campaign against the government.
The blast, which is believed to have been caused by a grenade, killed one PCAD supporter and injured 36 people.
PCAD guards stormed the row of abandoned buildings which line the road immediately after the attack took place to seek out the perpetrators, to no avail.
Nevertheless, they claimed to have discovered an abandoned room in one of the searched buildings, where many firearms were stored. These weapons were later displayed to the media, but only a small number of journalists were allowed to visit the alleged arsenal.
It should be noted that no police officer was present when PCAD guards discovered the weapon stack, and police officers who arrived to investigate the bomb attack were turned away by the protesters, saying that the police were not neutral. The area was instead cordoned off and maintained by Royal Thai Army soldiers.
The protesters also claimed they found a red cap with a police insignia, a police jacket, and police radio equipment in the room, suggesting that the police were behind the bomb attack. PCAD leader Suthep Thaugsuban repeated the accusation when he addressed the crowd later in the evening.
But Pol.Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew, Chief of the Royal Thai Police, said the police were not involved in the deadly incident yesterday, insisting that the police′s duty is to provide security for the people.
Pol.Gen. Worapong Chiewpreecha, deputy chief of the Royal Thai Police, also told reporters that he believes the weapons found by PCAD guards were in fact BB guns. He stressed that the police would investigate the matter and find the perpetrators as soon as possible, but lamented the fact that soldiers have entered the crime scene before the police.
Later in the day the Centre for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) announced that forensic police had already investigated the evidence reportedly found by PCAD guards, and concluded that the weapons were plastic BB guns, with their triggers removed, which could not fire live ammunition.
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Bangkok Metropolitan Police said that the police′s effort to provide security for the protesters was compromised by the PCAD leadership′s abrupt change of route for their demonstration yesterday.
The police were originally informed that PCAD march would take place from Lumpini Park to Phayathai Road, but the route was altered by PCAD leaders to include Banthat Thong Road at the last minute, said the police spokesman, Pol.Maj.Gen. Adul Narongsak.
"It is very abnormal, and different from the [demonstration] pattern adopted by PCAD in the past," Pol.Maj.Gen. Adul said, adding that the protesters should have allowed police officers to investigate the crime scene instead of delaying them for hours.
As for the arsenal where the weapons were allegedly found, Pol.Maj.Gen. Kamrop Panyakaew, chief of the forensic police department, said that the room was owned by a security guard who worked for Chulalongkorn University.
The owner of the room told police that he did not know anything about the weapons PCAD guards reportedly discovered there, according to Pol.Maj.Gen. Kamrop. He said the room owner only acknowledged the radio equipment and red hat as his possessions.
Pol.Maj.Gen. Kamrop added that he believes the grenade used in the attack might be a Chinese-produced RGD-5 type, but the projectile path of the grenade could only be determined by the grenade fuze found at the scene.
However, the fuze has been removed and is currently in the possession of the military, according to Pol.Maj.Gen. Kamrop.
Additionally, Pol.Maj.Gen. Pattanawuth Angkanawin, a senior police officer in Narathiwat province, announced in a press conference today that the protesters′ claim that the red cap found near the bomb attack scene bears the insignia similar to Narathiwat special ops police is false.
Showing a police-issued red hat to the reporters, Pol.Maj.Gen. Pattanawuth said the insignia on the cap found by the protesters is markedly different. He also insisted that Narathiwat police force has not been involved in the ongoing political protests in Bangkok.
"Please don′t pull us into politics," Pol.Maj.Gen. Pattanawuth said, "The southern insurgency alone is already killing us".
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