The army on deaths of red shirts

15 04 2009

PPT has received a statement being circulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via one of our readers and an email from an activist in Bangkok, both related to claims of deaths, especially during the army’s clearance of the Din Daeng intersection.

The former states that activists are setting up a clearing house to collect information regarding deaths and injuries. This is said to have been prompted by the failure of the mainstream media to report accurately on the events.

The “Statement by CRES regarding alleged shooting by the Royal Thai Army” that is being circulated is reproduced below with PPT comments in italics:

Today (14 April) at 21:20 hrs, Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Spokesman of the Royal Thai Army, and physicians who treated Mr. Sawai Tong-on, gave a televised statement at the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) refuting allegations that soldiers had shot and killed Mr. Sawai, a demonstrator. Gist as follows:

• Col. Sansern stated that the Government had substantially managed to disperse the demonstrators, with around 500 still remaining in the Sanam Luang area. He stated that there have been attempts to twist the facts and spread false information that the army is using weapons to shoot at the people. Photographs have been forwarded by email supposedly as proof of the army’s transgressions and to incite hatred.

PPT would like to see the photos being emailed. There have been claims of people killed and their bodies dragged away by the army at Din Daeng. Perhaps the army spokesman can explain why photographs can be inciting hatred. Shouldn’t the army spokesman be explaining what actually happened and how the photos convey anything false?

• Col. Sansern clarified that there are two ways in which the army would use their weapons in the circumstances. The first is by shooting live rounds into the air as a warning. The second is by shooting practice blanks, which are loud but harmless. The measures taken by the army were witnessed by the foreign media. As for the allegation that army personnel had shot at Mr. Sawai Tong-on with an M-16 rifle, Col. Sansern introduced the two physicians and invited them to brief the public on the medical details.

PPT has seen these statements a number of times now from the Colonel. Reports from the international media show these claims are false. The statement that Mr. Sawai was shot are not refuted by tying his shooting to an M-16. Army officers and police use many weapons, not all of army issue.

• Dr. Theerachai from Rachavithi Hospital, showing photographs, described Mr. Sawai’s injuries as a gunshot wound with the bullet entering the left armpit, cutting through blood vessels and leaving a 3.5-centimeter exit wound. When the patient reached the hospital, he was bleeding profusely and his pulse could not be found. Doctors proceeded to use a defibrillator to revive his heart and gave him blood transfusions. During the operation, doctors used artificial blood vessels to reconnect the torn ones. After the operation, Mr. Sawai’s pulse was measured and found to be normal. He was transferred to the ICU and his blood vessels were reconnected with his own in a second operation. Mr. Sawai is now conscious.

Mr. Sawai was indeed shot. By whom?

• Col. Dr. Dusadee, an expert on bullet wounds from Phramongkut Hospital, described and showed with photographs the effects of being shot with M-16 rifle. As an M-16 bullet would be travelling with great force, it would normally break the bone into tiny pieces or tear it out, leaving an exit wound the size of a cup. Col. Dr. Dusadee said that judging from the relatively small exit wound on Mr. Sawai’s body, the bullet that caused the injury was not from an M-16 rifle which is the standard-issue weapon for infantrymen.

As noted above, this is a meaningless comment. This is similar to the kinds of statements made by the military 2-3 decades ago: it couldn’t have been us, because we only use weapons issued to us!

• Col. Dr. Dusadee also showed pictures of two other injury victims, one shot by a handgun and the other by a 9mm weapon, which were not used by the army.

Same thing. Couldn’t have been the military because they don’t have 9mm weapons. This is testing the intelligence of readers who know the 9mm weapons are easily available in Thailand. The point is that Mr. Sawai was shot and the evidence presented does not rule out an army shooter.

• Col. Sansern stated that four soldiers had been shot and injured by demonstrators, and stressed that the public should avoid areas where demonstrations were still ongoing.

Will there be an investigation into how these soldiers were injured? Will the death of Mr. Sawai be investigated? Will there be an investigation into how more than 120 protestors were injured? PPT doubts that any independent and competent investigation is likely.


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