Thai tycoon shot in the head after car is ambushed

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The Independent Online

The founder of the protest movement that shut down Bangkok's airports last year was shot and wounded in a possible assassination attempt yesterday, days after troops quelled rioting by a rival, anti-government group.

Sondhi Limthongkul, a media tycoon and supporter of the current government, was in a stable condition after surgery to remove "small pieces of bullet" from his skull, said the Vajira Hospital director, Chaiwan Charoenchoktawee. After the surgery, Mr Sondhi was conscious and speaking and suffered no brain damage, he said. Mr Sondhi, who owns a pro-government TV channel, was being driven to work before dawn when at least two men in a pick-up truck ambushed his car and opened fire with M-16 and AK-47 rifles, first aiming to shoot out the tyres and then spraying the vehicle with bullets, said a Bangkok police spokesman Suporn Pansua.

"Considering the nature of the attack and the weapons used, we believe it was carried out by people with expertise," Mr Suporn said.

Police had found 84 bullet shells on the road. "We believe the attack was meant to take lives," he said. The car's windshield was riddled with bullets and the windows on one side were shattered. The driver of the car was seriously wounded and an aide travelling in the car also was wounded, Mr Suporn said.

The government quickly moved to tighten security around the Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, who said a state of emergency that was imposed on Sunday in Bangkok would remain in place.

Vehicles carrying Mr Abhisit were attacked twice by red-shirted protesters before and during this week's riots.

The attack threatened to again escalate long-standing political tensions in Thailand, despite calls for reconciliation from leaders on both sides of the conflict the day before .

Mr Abhisit said the cabinet had decided not to revoke the emergency decree that was imposed on Sunday to control rioting in the capital.

He said the decision was made after "looking at the overall picture" but "we are concerned by the shooting obviously. We've got to restore order. We do not want this to be used to create a wider conflict."

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