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Anti-Thaksin Thai leader shot
Founder of Yellow Shirts movement against ex-PM wounded in assassination attempt.
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2009 17:24 GMT

Sondhi, his driver and bodyguard were shot at a petrol station in the Thai capital [AFP]

The leader of Thailand's so-called Yellow Shirts protest movement against Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister, has been shot and wounded in Bangkok.

Sondhi Limthongkul's car was attacked at a petrol station in the Thai capital early on Friday, a spokesman for his People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), said.

Panthep Puapongpan, a PAD spokesman, said a driver and bodyguard were also wounded.

The PAD was behind a week-long siege of Bangkok's airports late last year to protest against allies of Thaksin within the government.

The attack comes just days after supporters of Thaksin, known as the Red Shirts, called off their own protests in the capital following street battles with the military and Bangkok residents that left two people dead and more than 100 injured.

Successful surgery

The assault was carried out by two assailants who shot out the tyres of Sondhi's car and then riddled the vehicle with bullets, Panthep said.

In depth


 Profile: The PAD
 Video: Tensions still high
 Interview: Thaksin speaks
 Video: Thaksin discusses Thailand's troubles
 Background: Who's who
 Economy: Vital tourist trade threatened
 Focus: Scarred by 'Mad Monday'
 Timeline: Thai crisis
 Pictures: Red Shirts retreat
 Profile: Thaksin Shinawatra

Doctors later said Sondhi was out of danger after a successful operation to remove a bullet fragment from his skull.

Chaiwan Charoenchoketavee, director of Vajira Medical College, said: "The operation has been completed. It took around two hours and Sondhi is now safe, in a good condition and able to talk."

Al Jazeera's Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said the attackers in a pickup truck fired about 100 bullets on Sondhi's vehicle over five minutes.

Tight security across Bangkok is making it difficult for protesters to regroup on the streets and that may lead to more such targeted attacks, our correspondent reported.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand's prime minister, told Al Jazeera that the shooting would not divert him from trying to bring order to his country.

"We shouldn't jump to the conclusion that this incident is necessarily something that would be linked up to the bigger picture of what we are trying to do, which is to restore law and order after the protests had turned violent," he said.

"We have to treat each case and get the facts from there.

"But we are, of course, very well aware that there is a lot of work to do still to make sure that we truly restore order and achieve stability here. Some of the work will be on the security side and a lot of work will be on the political side."

Cheng said the latest violence had heightened fears that the situation may return to how it was in the 1970s, when there were many factions, violence was prevalent and the country was deeply divided.
 
The PAD was not part of the latest protests in Thailand, but bands of its yellow-shirted supporters reportedly clashed with the Red Shirts on Monday night.

Deepening divisions

Bangkok is still under a state of emergency despite the Red Shirts dispersing on Tuesday.

They had besieged the Government House offices of Abhisit for several weeks in an attempt to force him from office and prompt an election.

Thaksin, who continues to wield considerable political influence in the country despite being mostly in exile since being ousted in a military coup in September 2006, had called on his supporters to overthrow the government.

The attackers apparently fired on Sondhi's car for five minutes, discharging about 100 bullets
But on Thursday, he urged his supporters to remain peaceful and echoed calls by Abhisit for reconciliation.

"War will never end by war, it has to end by negotiation," he said in Dubai.

"If the government wants to reconcile, I will encourage the Red Shirts to participate."

The former prime minister also urged King Bhumibol Adulyadej to help resolve the crisis that has deeply divided the country.

Sondhi founded the PAD in 2005 after falling out with Thaksin, who used to be a business associate.

The group is a loose alliance of royalists, military and urban elites who all oppose Thaksin, who draws his support from the rural poor.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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