BANGKOK (AP) - Thai police said Monday that they're looking for more weapons believed to be part of a plot to assassinate the prime minister, after police discovered guns and thousands of bullets allegedly belonging to an anti-establishment leader.
Police found over a dozen guns, around 6,000 bullets, knives, drugs, grenades and other contraband over the weekend that they said belonged to Wuthipong Kochathamakun, who was part of the violent anti-government protests in 2010 that paralyzed Bangkok for three months and killed around 90 civilians and six soldiers.
Krisana Pattanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman, said police officers were halfway through searching over 2,000 shipping containers at noon Monday where they believe more weapons were kept.
In the seizure Saturday, police also discovered red fabric banners with Wuthipong's nickname printed on them.
Wuthipong, better known as "Ko Tee," denied having any knowledge of the weapons stash in a Sunday interview on the YouTube channel "Jom Voice" and charged that the seizures were a setup by Thai authorities. He is currently seeking political asylum in neighboring Laos since Thailand's military toppled the elected government he supports in a coup in 2014.
"Looking at this incident, I can tell you now - it is a setup that is not well concealed," Wuthipong said. He also said that his friends and colleagues have been searched "hundreds of times" by authorities, making it impossible for any of them to hoard such a large amount of firearms.
Police said the weapons were part of a plot to assassinate leaders of Thailand's military government, including Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.
Nine men were arrested over the weekend in connection with the seizures. Wuthipong said he knew only one of them, but police said all nine were connected to him.
"It doesn't really matter whether they confess or not because there is physical evidence in the firearms meant for terrorism," deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul told reporters Sunday.
Police also said the alleged plotters had been preparing to launch violence against police in connection with their siege of the headquarters of a Buddhist sect whose chief they were seeking to arrest on charges of accepting embezzled money.
The Dhammakaya temple is considered sympathetic to the Red Shirt movement that led the 2010 protests, and some of the sect's sympathizers believe that Phra Dhammajayo, who heads the sect, is being prosecuted for political reasons. Police recently ended a three-week siege of the temple north of Bangkok without finding Dhammajayo, but say they will continue to seek his arrest.