BANGKOK — The Thai government has vowed to seek the extradition of fugitive Red-Shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun from Laos following the discovery of a huge cache of weapons on Saturday (Mar 18) by security forces in a house in Pathum Thani province.
Authorities have also insisted that the weapons seizure was not a set-up to frame Mr Wuthipong, whose network, they say, had planned to attack security forces should operations against the Wat Phra Dhammakaya Temple continued.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Monday (Mar 20) he wanted Mr Wuthipong brought to justice given the weapons found in his house, adding that officials will contact Laotian authorities to seek the Red-Shirt leader’s extradition.
“My intelligence team has followed the (Red-Shirt) group's movements for a long time. People who do not want to see violence also supplied us with a tip-off,” added Mr Prawit.
Police on Saturday found dozens of rifles and grenades, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, at a house belonging to Mr Wuthipong, who has been on the run for a charge of lese majeste since the military coup of 2014.
Police also arrested nine men in connection with the arms seizure, saying they had clear evidence the suspects and their extended network were aiming to cause unrest.
Deputy police spokesman Krisana Patanacharoen said the individuals in Mr Wuthipong's network have played a significant role in past political demonstrations. They have amassed manpower, arms and money to incite unrest, he said.
The nine arrested suspects were questioned and they confessed to keeping the weapons for a particular mission, Mr Krisana, said without elaborating on what their mission was.
"It is not a set-up. In this case, we have evidence and the suspects' accounts which correspond with our intelligence," added Mr Krisana, responding to criticism that the entire operation was a set-up.
"This group of suspects is involved in sedition via social media, and they tried to discredit the government.
They were also involved in a plan to assassinate the country's leader and other important people and have links to the Wat Phra Dhammakaya," he said.
Mr Krisana, however, provided no evidence pointing to the supposed plot to kill Mr Prayut.
Police ended their search of the Dhammakaya Temple earlier this month after laying siege to it for more than three weeks without finding the abbot wanted for suspected money-laundering.
Meanwhile, more than 300 police and soldiers continued on Monday to search a container yard in Samut Prakan province, just south of Bangkok, where weapons belonging to Mr Wuthipong’s network were suspected to be hidden. AGENCIES