An army general sacked over an alleged assassination attempt against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday the plot was fabricated by the Thai leader himself.
General Pallop Pinmanee, deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command, was fired shortly after powerful explosives were found in a car near Thaksin's residence and an army lieutenant driving the vehicle was arrested. The junior officer had once been Pallop's driver.
Pallop said the explosive device was not wired up to go off and questioned why the driver drove past the house several times instead of triggering the explosive.
"I think Thaksin cooked the thing up to damage me," Pallop said, noting his connection with Chamlong Srimuang, a key leader in months of street protests earlier this year against Thaksin.
Pallop spoke to reporters as speculation mounted over Thursday's incident, which Thaksin described as a plot against his life.
"Bomb plot or stunt?" a headline in the English-language Bangkok Post said.
The newspaper quoted Prasong Soonsiri, a former head of the National Security Council, as saying the alleged plot was an attempt by the embattled government to divert attention from other issues and could lead to Thaksin declaring a state of emergency.
Thaksin has been under attack from Bangkok's middle class, academics, some military officers and other sectors for alleged abuse of power and corruption, but has refused to step down and insists he will be the front-runner in his Thai Rak Thai party's bid to win October elections.
Thaksin yesterday maintained the attempt on his life was genuine, saying four senior military officers, some on active duty and others retired, were the masterminds. He said he could not reveal their names at this time.
"Why do I have to make up the story? If it's cooked up how can police arrest the suspect? The truth will be revealed when more collaborators are arrested. More suspects will be arrested soon," Thaksin told reporters.
The suspect, Lieutenant Tha-watchai Klinchana, is an officer with the Internal Security Operations Command. He was charged with possession of an explosive device, with the intent to harm. Police said more charges would be brought as the investigation continued.
Colonel Kosol Ngampramuan, chief of the police bomb squad, said Thawatchai had driven his car back and forth near Thaksin's home until a security guard notified police. Thawatchai was arrested after trying to flee, he said.
Kosol said a powerful bomb found in the car was capable of causing damage within a 1km radius, and would have destroyed everything within 50m to 100m.
Thaksin said yesterday he would limit outdoor activities for security reasons and would be unable to help candidates campaign for the upcoming election.
"I have to work in a safe place. I cannot travel outside because it will make it more difficult to provide protection," Thaksin told members of his party.
Thai Rak Thai spokesman Pimuk Simaroj said Thaksin would campaign through electronic media.
Thaksin canceled a trip this week to visit flooded areas in northern Thailand and a Sept. 3 meeting with his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, on the Thai-Cambodia border, a government spokesman said.