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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Monk threatens Thai parliament
Thai Buddhist monk Pramaha Sayanjerasutho
The armed monk wanted to speak to the prime minister
A Buddhist monk armed with an AK-47 assault rifle has been arrested after firing into the air inside the grounds of Thailand's parliament.

The monk demanded to see the prime minister or senior officials over his complaints about police harassment.


I am demanding to talk with Prime Minister Thaksin [Shinawatra] to lodge a complaint about my unjust treatment when I was arrested by the local police

Pramaha Sayanjerasutho
He was talking to Thai journalists and officials live on camera when one grabbed his gun and overpowered him.

Police denied earlier reports that the monk had taken hostages and nobody was hurt in the incident, which happened early on Wednesday just before a sitting of the 500-member lower house of parliament to debate a no-confidence motion against 15 cabinet members.

The monk, named as Pramaha Sayanjerasutho, is reported to have been inside the grounds of parliament for 40 minutes.

"Parliamentary police allowed him to come in [to the building] because he is a monk. The monk is under pressure. If he wants to meet with me I will go to see him," Prime Minister Thaksin told reporters on his arrival to parliament.

Live broadcast

The monk fired a single shot from an office window and took parliamentary staff in the room hostage, before inviting about 10 members of the press inside to interview him.

He refused to allow uniformed police entry, but three plain clothes officers were able to enter the room by pretending to be reporters and overpowered him.

Before entering the building, the monk said he had waited outside overnight with the assault rifle concealed in his robe.

In a lengthy speech through a reporter's mobile phone that was broadcast live on radio and television stations, the monk said he was arrested in 1996 for trespassing in a forest in Chantaburi, 320 kilometres (200 miles) east of Bangkok.

He said he was beaten by police and stripped during a two-night detention. He said he had complained to government agencies, but no action was taken against the police.

Thai police declined to comment on the monk's statement.

See also:

11 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
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28 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
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