BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Thai court issued arrest warrants against five people on Thursday over the discovery of a cache of weapons, including figures with links to the “Red Shirt” followers of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Police said they found the cache in a swamp south of Bangkok and believed the weapons were hidden during the instability that led up to a coup in 2014.
Among those named in the arrest warrants was exiled dissident Jakrapob Penkair, 50, who served as Thaksin’s spokesman from 2003 to 2005 and then as a minister in a later government backed by Thaksin.
Police said another of the five, retired Lieutenant General Manas Paolik, 68, had given himself up. He had served as commander for Thailand’s Third Army under Thaksin,
He faces charges including illegal procession of weapons and ammunition as well as organized crime, said police colonel Suwat Sangnoom, deputy head of the Crime Suppression Division.
Thailand’s longstanding political divide is between a populist movement led by Thaksin, who was overthrown in 2006, and the “Yellow Shirt” supporters of a conservative Bangkok-based establishment.
The army seized power in 2014 in the name of ending street protests against Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, who was prime minister at the time. Both Shinawatras fled into exile.
Thailand’s ruling junta has said intelligence reports show groups plotting against the government, citing that as a reason to maintain a ban on political activity. It has promised to hold elections in a year’s time.
Critics of the government accuse it of using the alleged plots as a pretext to prolong military rule. The junta had initially promised to hold elections in 2015.
(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; editing by Andrew Roche)