Police source: ‘Dubai’ ordered arrest of protest leaders — The arrest of Thailand anti-government protest leader Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham on Feb 10 came after three previous aborted attempts to capture protest leaders, including secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), according to a Bangkok Post report.
The report quotes a police source as saying orders for at least two of the arrests were issued from Dubai – an obvious reference to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Plans were made to capture key PDRC leaders and entrusted to caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who on Dec 26 planned to move in and arrest the most-wanted PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban as he was out having lunch with several other protest leaders in Sao Chingcha near the Democracy Monument rally site.
Mr Suthep was reportedly under heavy escort by PDRC guards.
Mr Charlerm called a meeting with top-ranking police officers, who were told of the mission to capture Mr Suthep even if there were clashes and “losses”, according to the Bangkok Post report.
The police source says the order for a showdown was issued from Dubai, and elite Arintharat and Sayob Pairee forces were ready for the operation.
Mr Chalerm asked police chief Adul Saengsingkaew to approve the dispatch of officers, but he refused to meet him and sent Pol Lt Gen Winai Thongsong, who is assistant police chief and also nephew-in-law of Thaksin, to the meeting instead.
Pol Lt Gen Winai, after listening to the Suthep capture plan, backed down – fearing a loss of life which would send the situation spinning out of control, according to the police source.
Mr Chalerm was displeased that no one would sign the dispatch order, but Pol Lt Gen Winai promised that he would explain his decision to the “Dubai boss”, said the source.
The second attempt to capture protest leaders occurred on Dec 30 when police officers in five vehicles followed Nitithorn Lamlua as he left the Nang Loeng rally site controlled by the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT).
Mr Nitithorn evidently became aware he was being pursued and abrupted headed back to the safety of the rally site.
A third attempt was planned on Jan 9, as police saw the crowd was down to some 300 people at the NSPRT site, giving them a chance to disperse the protesters and swoop down on their leaders.
The green light was given from Dubai, said the source, but Pol Lt Gen Winai again disagreed with the operation out of concern for the safety of police and protesters, as some protesters might be armed and fight back.
Pol Lt Gen Winai said undercover police were able to get close enough to Mr Suthep to have their photos taken with him without the PDRC leader knowing their identities, according to the source.
On Feb 10 police finally captured Mr Sonthiyan as he was eating alone at Central Plaza shopping mall. He was the PDRC core leader who spent the most time away from the rally sites and was thus easier to catch than other leaders.