Inquests

5 05 2013

Several inquests recent political deaths are continuing. Three recent reports on these caught PPT’s attention.

The first was at Prachatai a few days ago and is a report on the inquest into the death in custody of lese majeste victim Ampol Tangnopakul in May 2012. The inquest began in February 2013. This report recounts evidence provided by fellow lese majeste convict Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul, who provided great support to Ampol when in jail together.

Tanthawut’s testimony included details of overcrowding and work assignments that were beyond Ampol’s capacity as a sick and aged man. For example, he was assigned “to produce 5 kilograms of paper cups or about 2,500 cups each day.” However, he never reached the target.

He also commented on medical facilities and pointed out that the Bangkok Remand Prison has extremely limited medical capacity, with doctors visiting twice a week. Only “20 prisoners are allowed to go to the medical facility, and each prisoner is allowed to go there only once a week.” Ampol told Tanthawut that:

when he went to the medical facility for the first time, the doctors did not diagnose his illness, but gave him painkillers for his stomach pain. Only when he cried out the second time did the doctors examine him, but with some contemptuous remarks about his alleged offences to the monarchy.

His condition worsened and he was eventually sent to the Corrections Hospital on 4 May 2012, and died four days later.

The second report is about a “friendly fire” death of a soldier. Back in 2010, the BBC and other outlets reported a case of a soldier being killed by what seemed like “friendly fire.” The inquest found that “Private Narongrit Sala from the Second Battalion of the Ninth Infantry Division in Kanchanaburi was killed by a high-velocity bullet fired from one of the troops operating in the area [Don Muang]…” on 28 April 2010. A high-velocity bullet hit Narongrit at “his left elbow, travelled through to the skull and destroyed brain tissue…. The court concluded that the bullet was fired by a soldier operating in the area.”

MCOT reports that he “was fatally shot by a high-speed bullet which passed through his upper left eyebrow to the skull…. The bullet was fired from a military weapon.” There seems there was no doubt that Narongrit was killed by “friendly fire” as the inquest was concluded quickly with none of his relatives at the hearing and no “plaintiff and related military officials.”

The third report is of an inquest into the deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram. A senior police officer has testified to the court that “military personnel were acting suspiciously when he and his men investigated Pathumwanaram Temple, where 6 civilians were murdered during the crackdown on Redshirts protest on 19 May 2010.”

Pol. Lt. Col. Sutad Chaiprom explained that

… he and his bomb squad were sent to collect evidences at Pathumwanararm Temple … on the morning after the incident. He said he found a number of automatic rifles at the temple, but they were all clearly army-issued firearms, and the soldiers were already stationed inside the temple when his team arrived.

He provided examples of military interference with his investigation saying that when “his men requested a closer investigation at a pond inside the temple, but they were refused by the military officials.”





Targeting Tharit

4 01 2013
Phayao

Phayao

The story at The Nation on Phayao Akkahad, mother of the murdered medic Kamolkade Akkahad going after Department of Special Investigation chief, Tharit Pengdit is telling for its clarity and precision.

Kamolkade was probably killed by Army shooters, who shot her five times, as she tended to wounded at Wat Pathum Wanaram as the Abhisit Vejjajiva government cleared red shirt protesters in May 2010. Phayao states that Tharit, a member of the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), which was responsible for ordering the crackdown, “cannot be absolved from his responsibility for the people killed in … 2010…”. As the report has it, “Payao explained that if other CRES members were found guilty, there is no reason why Tarit should not be held responsible as well.”

Phayao wants the Yingluck Shinawatra government to remove Tharit and “complained that former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his then-deputy Suthep Thaugsuban were not detained like other red shirts when the DSI accused them of having the intention to murder in relation to the 2010 crackdown.”

Finally, she wants “all Army officers involved in ordering and carrying out the alleged shooting of protesters in 2010 should also be prosecuted.” She is correct when she observes that: “If we don’t prosecute soldiers now, then they will end up engaging in such ‘operations’ again and again…”.





Wat Pathum Wanaram inquest

19 12 2012

Many PPT readers will have already seen the recently-posted Prachatai account of the South Bangkok Criminal Court “inquest into the deaths of six people who were killed at Pathum Wanaram Temple near Ratchaprasong intersection after the dispersal of the red-shirt protests on 19 May 2010.” Somehow PPT has missed accounts of this first hearing, now almost a week ago, in the mainstream media, so we highlight it here. soldiers on bts 2

The Prachatai report of witness testimony is vivid and disturbing, with graphic accounts of soldiers shooting into the temple and at medics, red shirts and journalists. The report suggests that, along with other testimony in other inquests, that as Achara Ashayagachat of the Bangkok Post observed, it is “undeniable that we have not seen much concrete progress in the investigation by the police, fact-finders and prosecutors into the previous government’s decision to violently disperse the red shirts, which was tantamount to a licence to kill.” Hopefully, this progress can be maintained and that the culture of impunity is challenged.





Nostitz, HRW and 2010

26 10 2012

PPT was scrolling through some of the posts at New Mandala earlier today and noted a brief exchange on an old posting, with an intriguing recent comment from photojournalist Nick Nostitz.

Readers will know Nostitz as the author of two books on recent street politics in Thailand. His most recent post at New Mandala was on the Democrat Party’s “men in black” sham rally. It will also be recalled that Human Rights Watch released a much debated and criticized report on the events of 2010 about a year after the military crackdown was concluded. That report is available here.

The genesis of Nostitz’s comment on the HRW report is a poke he receives from one of the yellow-shirted antagonists who regularly comment at New Mandala, Vichai N. This Vichai asks about Nostitz and the HRW, sort of implying that Nostitz was unreliable [reliable we fixed a typo here] as he wasn’t cited in that rather biased and incomplete report. For PPT, Nostitz’s response is revealing of the methods used by HRW, and should come as no surprise to those who follow HRW’s side-taking in Thailand.

Nostitz reveals that “HRW investigators” interviewed him.” He then explains that HRW:

decided not to include my accounts, especially over the killing zone incident, as the believed another person who wasn’t even there during the incident and at the day, and had very little background knowledge or contacts (we had quite an argument during the interview over this, which pissed me off tremendously, especially as this was only a very short time after this whole mess, when i was psychologically still very stressed).

Nostitz goes no to explain that HRW “decided to believe the massive discrediting campaign that at the time was launched by the DP [Democrat Party-led] government against me, and decided not to listen to the people who supported me [his account]…”. He adds that the HRW account of the killings at Wat Pathum Wanaram was shallow and accepting of “simplistic” media stories.

Nick Nostitz

On the HRW report, he concludes: “It has merit, but also some weaknesses which could have been avoided.”

As an aside, Nostitz comments on the role played by HRW’s Sunai Phasuk, claiming that “contrary what many believe, was not part of the HRW report.” Given that Sunai is an employee of HRW and their designated “researcher,” this assertion demands more detail, especially as Sunai was reporting to HRW throughout the period the report discusses. Nostitz claims that “Sunai is one of the very few people here who are extremely knowledgeable, factual and objective, and do walk neutral ground.” Nostitz is simply wrong to claim that Sunai is “neutral.” While we agree that he is knowledgeable, PPT has demonstrated Sunai’s pro-coup bias (found here, here, here, here, here and here).





With a major update: Democrat Party men in black I

13 10 2012

Members of the Democrat Party have dressed as so-called men in black in what The Nation reports as “a mobile rally in Bangkok to raise awareness of the role of the so-called men in black during the political strife in 2010.” In fact, the Democrat Party, urged on by its leader on by Abhisit Vejjajiva has done little more than show its continuing disdain for the people murdered by the Army when it was the party of government. This “rally was meant to publicize another event at Lumpini Park where Abhisit has promised to provide more information on political violence.

As PPT noted before, we once attended a political rally organized by this party when it promised to unveil new evidence about “men in black,” only to find them inexpertly cobbling together YouTube video that had been available for months. Nor is this the first time that a convoy has been organized by the party. The last we recall was during the 2011 election, when then Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban went on one to try to stem the popularity of the Puea Thai Party by “reminding” voters of 2010’s political violence.

On that occasion, it was the Bangkok Post trumpeting in support of the Democrat Party, with an op-ed lamentably asking, “Do we remember the burning of Thailand?” That op-ed began by explaining the surprise of amongst the elite that Puea Thai was so popular and admonishing the Democrat Party for not reminding people of these “heinous and treasonous” acts. PPT assumes that the Democrat “men in black” rally is based in a similar realization that the party continues to be flailing and drowning with a leader who is politically damaged goods.

This small Democrat Party “rally” was little more than a stunt as a few “participants” drove to what they claimed were “key sites … where men dressed in black appeared to intervene in crowd-control operations aimed at the 2010 red-shirt rallies.”

Note that The Nation’s “report” is little more than a Democrat Party handout, with its use of terms like “crowd-control operations” that were, in fact, Army live-fire zones involving the heavy use of snipers.

The Democrat Party claims that “men in black” appeared at “34 spots around the capital and took part in the political violence.” Interestingly, the Democrat Party “rally” shows that “men in black” can be easily “created” by anyone, as being a “man in black” means nothing more than wearing a black balaclava and a jacket and carrying a weapon like those used by the Army.

Perhaps the most disgusting element of the Democrat Party’s stunt was its call at Wat Pathum Wanaram, where medical workers were gunned down by the Army, and the party’s claim – one made by the Army – that “men in black at the temple had triggered violent clashes with security forces, resulting in casualties and the deaths of civilians.” That this is a lie is shown by numerous accounts by journalists present at the time. The idea that this temple event “triggered” any violence by the military is simply nonsense. Even a claim that the military’s use of deadly force in April and May 2010 is not supported by the evidence so far produced by any of the reports produced on the violence.

They will continue to seek to muddy the waters when they “rally”at Lumpini Park to” disseminate information relating to the violence involving the red shirts.” PPT believes that the “information” will be the same they “disseminated” in 2011, when trying to damage the Puea Thai Party’s huge popularity.

The Democrat Party seeks to exonerate itself from culpability in the murder of citizens when Abhisit, Suthep headed the government. We recall Suthep’s earlier claims that red shirts got themselves killed by running in front of bullets. That was sick too.

Update: As predicted, the Democrat Party came up with nothing new in their “rally” at Lumpini Park. At least that is what we get from media reports. The biggest claim they made is that Thaksin Shinawatra was behind the so-called men in black. That is exactly the claim made in Suthep made in June 2011 when he stated that every single person killed on 10 April was shot by Black Shirts in the pay of Thaksin.

The Democrat Party in power didn’t manage to locate any man in a black and get him through the courts and their histrionics fail to explain why so many red shirts were killed unless one accepts their claim that men in black were killing red shirts (when they have earlier claimed that they supported red shirts). The failure to get men in black to court is even more remarkable when Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha now claims “that the army had information about the black-clad men who attacked security forces on April 10, 2010.”

Korn Chatikavanij added to the illogical claims of his brethren with a concocted nonsense that the government hadn’t ordered snipers to kill Khattiya Sawasdipol, because if they had they would have used snipers to kill more red shirt leaders. Bizarre.

Suthep was reportedly had “tears rolling down his face” as he recalled the deaths of soldiers (not the large numbers of civilians) who died and as he whined that “the Pheu Thai government was trying to unfairly prosecute him and Mr Abhisit for the crackdown.” He would never have expected to have been challenged on his decisions and orders when in power.

Interestingly, none of the reports we could find stated how many people attended the “rally.” We found it in another Bangkok Post report: 2000 attended.





Cold-hearted “testimony”

9 10 2012

In amongst a report in The Nation that is about Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd providing what was euphemistically called “testimony” to the parliamentary sub-committee on political development and mass communication chaired by a Democrat Party MP, there’s some interesting comment.

While “testimony” is usually a solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter and is said to be planned and thought through, Sansern’s approach is mainly to resort to the unbelievable stories concocted by the Army.

Sansern claims that of the 69 weapons belonging to the Army that were “confiscated by red-shirt protesters in April 2010, only one M-16 rifle has been returned to the military, the rest are still missing…”. The first point to make is that red shirts simply picked up some of these weapons as Army infantrymen shed them and other equipment as they ran away from events on that gruesome night. Red shirts claim they handed all the weapons over to police. If that is true, perhaps between the police and Army these weapons have been lost or “misplaced.”They both have a record of “losing” weapons.

More significant is Sansern’s repetition of his story that “[t]he military did not fire live bullets at the protesters but shot into the air to frighten them…”. Absolutely no-one believes this fabrication and there is not a shred of evidence to support the lie. In the same cold-hearted way, he again claims that the Army killed no-one at Wat Pathum Wanaram and raises the specter of “men in black,”claiming “clear evidence” but not producing any.

Meanwhile, Sansern’s political bosses in the Democrat Party, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva said the party “would hold a major rally at Lumpini Park on Sunday. The rally would be … special … as he would reveal the truth about the men in black during the political turmoil of 2010. There would be a presentation about the group…”. PPT can’t wait. Well maybe we can. The last time the Democrat Party promised this was at an election rally at Rajaprasong that produced not a shed of new evidence.

Abhisit also mentioned that he has a book, “The Colourless Truth”, that will soon be launched. THat will create some interest. Presumably he will again tell his “story.”





Truth for Reconciliation report on Battle for Bangkok

13 09 2012

Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation reports on the Truth for Reconciliation Commission final report on the violence associated with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s several attempts to clear red shirts protesters in April and May 2010. Pravit states that he received an advance copy of the report, so PPT hasn’t seen it.

We won’t comment in detail on Pravit’s report, but as far as PPT can ascertain, there is nothing particularly new in the TRC’s account, and it’s methodology is unclear until the report is released.

Pravit focuses on claims that “men in black” were involved in the violence and that they “may have got cooperation from red shirts.” Neither claim is new, and in his account, Pravit sheds no light on the claims.

The report states that “security officers eventually used live bullets, deployed snipers and were likely responsible for the six deaths at Wat Pathumwanaram on May 19, 2010.” Again, nothing new in this, but as it is a  515-page report, PPT would expect that something original might be in there somewhere.

What isn’t at all clear is how the TRC concludes that: “Both [sides] believe they were victims. The operation by the ‘men in black’ were very instrumental in creating and elevating the violence with the aim of provoking the Army to use weapons against protesters and wanting to exact the loss of lives…”. The claim that the death of Colonel Romklao Thuwatham “led to the confusing and out-of-control use of weapons by soldiers”, seems to excuse the already confused and deadly actions by the army prior to that incident.

That the TRC is able to say that “soldiers then used rifles and fired ‘many’ live bullets in the direction of the red-shirt protesters” but is unable to “explicitly link… the deaths to soldiers” is bizarre.

The report’s claims about events at Wat Pathum Wanaram seem curiously outdated by recent events, at least as reported by Pravit.

We are sure that the report will unleash further discussion when it is released next week.








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