Bangkok A brazen attack by gunmen Friday wounded the protest leader who helped topple Thailand’s government in 2006 and paralyzed the capital last year, reheating political temperatures that had started to cool after several days of rioting by opposing forces.
Bangkok remained under a state of emergency and security was tightened around Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who said the shooting should not be used as an excuse for more political conflict.
“We are concerned by the shooting obviously. We’ve got to restore order,” he said. “We do not want this to be used to create a wider conflict.”
But the attack was a new strain in long-standing tensions between backers of Abhisit’s government and supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup three years ago and whose allies were removed from power by the courts last fall.
Sondhi Limthongkul, an outspoken media tycoon and founder of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, was ambushed early Friday on his way to work. At least two men in a pickup truck opened fire on his car with M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles, police spokesman Suporn Pansua said.
Bullets shattered the windshield and the rear window. Sondhi’s driver was seriously wounded and an aide also was wounded, police said. No arrests have been made in the attack.
Sondhi, whose “yellow shirt” alliance helped install the current government, was in stable condition after surgery removed “small pieces of bullet” from his skull, said Vajira Hospital’s director, Chaiwan Charoenchoktawee. Sondhi was conscious, speaking and suffered no brain damage, he said.