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PM: Police chief remains in post, but on leave

BANGKOK, July 31 (TNA) – Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asserted on Friday that National Police Chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan will not be removed from his post as he affirms that the latter is not an obstacle to the investigation into the attempted killing of a media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul.

The premier however said the police chief had proposed two possible solutions to ending the conflict regarding the probe into the attempted killing of the Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in April.

Gen. Patcharawat proposed delaying any police reshuffle until the new police chief takes office because he doesn’t want the reshuffle to affect the probe, the prime minister said.

“The police chief also told me that he will take leave for an overseas mission for one month starting from next week,” said Mr Abhisit. “I think this is a sufficient timeline for the investigative team to proceed and finalise the case.”

The premier said the proposed solutions to the Gen Patcharawat saga are best way out of the current conflict, while insisting that there are insufficient grounds to indicate that the commissioner was the obstacle to investigating the Sondhi case.

The premier, however, did not name an acting police chief, saying that he and his team were researching the legal aspects.

The premier commented after meeting Gen Patcharawat earlier in the day amid rumours that he will be transferred to an inactive post in response to the complaint of deputy police chief Pol Gen Thani Somboonsap heading the investigation team that his task encountered difficulty as information had been leaked by unnamed police officers.

Mr Sondhi, key leader of the People’s Alliace for Democracy (PAD), played a key role in campaigning to oust prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, culminating in the coup of September 2006,  survived a serious attempt to kill him in an April 17 ambush.

The PAD leader revealed Thursday that the killing team comprised 13 military men and one police officer. He said some officials in the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) helped plan and carrying out the attempted killing, saying that “these people have a close ties with the old power clique.”
The court earlier issued arrest warrants for two non-commissioned officers for their alleged involvement in the attempt on Mr Sondhi’s life.

The two suspects still at large are identified as Pol Cpl Worawut Mungsanthi, assigned to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) and Sgt-Maj 1st Class Panya Srihaera, a non-commissioned officer from the Army’s Special Warfare Command in Lop Buri.

However, on Friday assistant police chief Pol Lt-Gen Assawin Kwanmuang said that he had discussed with the investigation team and had been informed that Cpl Worawut sent a letter to Gen Thani, explaining that was not involved in the incident as accused.

“Pol Cpl Worawut said in the letter that he had contacted a go-between to take him to surrender to police,” said Pol. Lt-Gen. Assawin, “I also guarantee his safety if he surrenders to police, but if he does not, I can’t guarantee safety for him.”

The assistant police chief added that he had been informed by Pol. Gen. Thani that no more arrest warrants can be issued during this period as earlier said to the media.

He reasoned that police still have not found the impounded car and there are not enough eyewitnesses and circumstantial evidence. (TNA)

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