Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Police nab hit team suspect, hunt gunman in Suban killing

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Police have arrested a man suspected of being part of a five-member hit team that gunned down Bhum Jai Thai canvasser Suban Jiraphanwanich in Bangkok last week.

Police sources said the unnamed man was possibly in charge of helping the trigger man escape after shooting at Suban, his wife and a female aide. The gunman fled the scene in Khao San Road on the pillion seat of a motorcycle.

Apart from the gunman, the five-member hit team included a target identifier, a scout, a getaway motorcyclist, and the man in custody who took the gunman out of Bangkok, the sources added.

Sources from the metropolitan police Crime Suppression Division, and detectives from the Regional Police Bureau 1 jointly working on the Suban murder case, have indicated the hit team was associated with what they refer to as "men in uniform." However nobody has yet been implicated as masterminds behind the killing.

The gunman could be a career assassin, possibly based in Lop Buri, where Suban had influence as head of the Provincial Administrative Organisation. In addition to the gunman, all four other members of the hit team could be under protection of the "men in uniform" based in the central province, another source from metropolitan police said.

Pol General Phongsaphat Phongcharoen, head of the police centre handling security during the run-up to the July 3 election, said police now knew the whereabouts of Thongchai Khongprajak, a gunman on a 75-member blacklist, and had set a deadline for him to surrender in the next 24 hours.

"At the end of the deadline, he will face a massive manhunt and eventual capture," he said, adding that Thongchai's absence had not indicated his intent or plan to kill anyone or any candidate.

Kamol, Suban's father, called on former general Panlop Pinmanee to "stop his men from doing anything which may set Lop Buri on fire". He did not elaborate or indicate any links between Panlop and the killing of Suban in his statement, made after a three-hour interview with Lop Buri police.

In the wake of Suban's killing and claims of extensive threats from rival parties, most BJT canvassers now have bullet proof vests and wear them during party rallies. A kamnan in Muang district, Jamras Bunkhlai, said the vest was a primary and affordable measure he was now adopting to protect himself.

Mallika, Suban's sister and a BJT candidate in Lop Buri, said she suspected an Army officer, who showed up during the application of constituency candidates last month, could be linked to the killing. She said this unnamed officer accompanied a rival party member and pointed at Suban in an insulting manner which later led to an altercation between BJT's and the other party's supporters.

"I think the officer, hiding behind the demeaning gesture and by fingering Suban, identified the target to the hit team members - or the gunman - who were among that party's supporters on application day," she added.

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