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Media mogul and political leader Sondhi Limthongkul survives slay attempt

(SEAPA/IFEX) - 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 [the] 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.

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