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Senior Thai Officer Fired Over Alleged Bomb Plot Against Prime Minister


Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has fired a senior security official after a junior officer under his command was arrested outside the prime minister's residence as part of an alleged bomb plot. There are concerns the plot may have wider political implications in the run up to Thailand's general elections scheduled for October 15.

Thai police arrested an army lieutenant on Thursday after bomb disposal experts defused a bomb including several kilograms of explosives. The powerful bomb, along with many sticks of dynamite and some potentially explosive fertilizer, was found in a vehicle that had been traveling near the Bangkok residence of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

After the arrest, Mr. Thaksin fired General Pallop Pinmanee, the deputy director of the Internal Security Operation Command. The general is the arrested man's commander.

Pallop has denied any involvement in the bomb plot, saying that if he had been involved, it would not have failed.

Pallop is a member of Mr. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party and has been a security advisor to the prime minister. Analysts say it appears unlikely that the general would be involved in a plot to harm the prime minister.

The alleged conspiracy follows clashes between opponents and supporters of Mr. Thaksin at several of the prime minister's public appearances this week.

A Thai government spokesman said Thursday those involved in the bombing attempt were disgruntled because they had lost power and benefits in their jobs. However, analysts say it indicates how unstable Thai politics are under the administration of Mr. Thaksin.

Somphob Manarangsan, an economics professor at Chulalongkorn University, says the latest incident highlights the political hostility in Thailand.

"[The] incident this morning indicated wider conflict in the Thai society - politically, socially and also economically. That means that it is not really easy for the Thai politics to be settled even by the new election that's supposed to be coming soon," said Somphob.

Kraisak Choonhavan, an opposition senator, says the plot may be used as an excuse for a crackdown on protests against Mr. Thaksin.

"This incident in fact will be an excuse - an important one for Mr. Thaksin - to come down very hard on all opposition to him, and that peaceful demonstrations which have nothing to do with these military people will be suppressed," said Choonhavan.

Thailand has been gripped by political uncertainty since street protests earlier this year called for Mr. Thaksin to resign over allegations of abuse of power and corruption.

The snap elections he called in April, in a bid to silence the protests, backfired when they were nullified after an opposition boycott. The next elections are scheduled for October 15, but may be delayed, pending formation of a new Election Commission.