Media mogul and political leader Sondhi Limthongkul survives slay attempt

Sondhi Limthongkul, founder of Thai media conglomerate
ASTV-Manager Daily and a staunch opponent of former prime minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, was seriously injured in an early morning ambush on 17 April
2009 in Bangkok, media reports said.

"The Nation" said that Sondhi was onboard his Toyota van with his driver,
bodyguard and secretary on their way to the ASTV-Manager Daily in Phra
Arthit Road when two gunmen aboard a pick-up truck overtook their vehicle
and opened fire with assault rifles.

Sondhi, who was rushed to the nearby Vajira Hospital, underwent a two-hour
operation to repair a fractured skull while his companions were treated in
various hospitals.

The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and the Thai Broadcast Journalist
Association (TBJA) said in a statement that the attack "further
deteriorated the current political situation and potentially escalated the
on-going violence."

It added that the incident "is in defiance of the government's declaration
of a state of emergency and a breach of laws that are intended to protect
the people's safety."

"We reaffirm that the duty of the media in the current situation is to be
able to report facts and opinions in a free and diverse manner in
accordance with professional ethics. However, any action against an
individual media outlet with different views should be taken with respect
to  legal process, not through the same cruel and barbaric means used
against Sondhi in order to enable the media to perform their duty freely
and without fear," the two media groups added.

Crime scene investigators later said they recovered 64 spent shells from an
AK-47 assault rifle, 17 from an HK33 and three from an M-16.

Police are still hunting for the suspects even as it was discovered that
four surveillance cameras near the crime scene operated by the traffic
police had been out of order since 16 April.

Sondhi, a former business associate and political supporter of Thaksin,
later turned against the former prime minister and helped found the
People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which staged protest rallies prior
to the 2006 coup that unseated Thaksin.

In 2008 the PAD launched a series of protests against two prime ministers
allied with Thaksin which culminated in the week-long takeover of
Suvarnabhumi International Airport by PAD demonstrators, known as the
"Yellow Shirts", in December 2008.

<p>Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Bangkok</p>


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