Missing woman held by Thai army over alleged role in attack

AP News
Posted: Mar 17, 2015 7:28 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai officials acknowledged Tuesday that a key witness in the 2010 shooting deaths of anti-government protesters, allegedly by soldiers, who went missing last week has been detained by authorities for suspected involvement in a recent grenade attack in the capital.

Nattatida Meewangpla was taken into custody for questioning by soldiers and police before she was handed over to Bangkok authorities, Thai junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree said. A day earlier, Winthai had denied allegations that authorities had detained her.

"She was taken by an investigation team for questioning, in order to find out more about the case and to prevent further attacks," Winthai told The Associated Press. "Yesterday I couldn't locate her. Sometimes these procedures are kept as a secret because it can affect the authorities' work on security matters."

Nattatida's lawyer, Winyat Chatmontree, said Nattatida was taken away March 11 by a group of men believed to be military officers. She was among at least 15 suspects for whom arrest warrants were issued for a March 7 grenade explosion at Bangkok's Criminal Court, in which no one was hurt and only minor damage was caused.

Political temperatures have risen as the junta that took power after a coup last May has tightened its clampdown on critics, assisted by allies in state agencies and the judiciary. The military rulers have banned political gatherings of five people or more and ordered security-related offenses to be handled by the military courts.

Nattatida emerged from a van and was flanked by policewomen Tuesday at Bangkok's Metropolitan Police Bureau. Police pressed multiple charges against her, including terrorism and possessing illegal explosive material.

Nattatida, a volunteer nurse during the 2010 protests, was the main witness in the deaths of six people at a Buddhist temple during the military crackdown that ended the demonstrations.