Thailand repeats request for Laos to arrest ‘Kotee’

Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee, is shown talking to reporters in his political stronghold of Pathum Thani in 2014. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

Thailand has repeated its request for Laos to arrest hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee, as it believes the fugitive is continuing to stir up political trouble.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has ordered that a letter seeking the arrest be sent to the special branch police of Laos, according to Gen Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC).

The letter will be sent through the Lao embassy in Bangkok and the Thai embassy in Vientiane. It will ask for updates on earlier discussions in which Thai authorities informed their Lao counterparts that Kotee, 48, was persisting with his activities, Gen Thawip said.

The Thai government maintains that Kotee is a dangerous person who opposes the monarchy and has agitated for a change in the form of government in the country. He is wanted on a total of 21 arrest warrants for a series of serious offences, said the NSC chief.

Gen Thawip dismissed earlier reports that Kotee had already fled Laos and was now in Vietnam. He said he believed the suspect was still in Laos, where he has access to IT equipment that allows him to continue promoting his views via YouTube.

If he had fled to Vietnam, he would have found it very difficult to get his equipment across the border, Gen Thawip said.

Kotee was accused of buying a huge cache of weapons with donated money and using them during political demonstrations by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and clashes with other demonstrators in 2010 and 2014.

He has also been linked to a major weapons seizure on March 18 of this year, which resulted in nine suspects being charged with terrorism among other offences. One of the locations raided was a Pathum Thani house that Kotee used as a base when he was still running a red-shirt radio station in Thailand.

Some opponents of Kotee have attempted to speculate on a connection between the red-shirt hardman and fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. That prompted Thaksin, through his lawyer, to file defamation and computer crimes complaints against a TV programme anchor and commentator.

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