“Nobody receives justice in Thailand”: A CPJ special report on Thailand

30 07 2010

In a special report by Shawn W. Crispin the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) raises important issues and questions. CPJ is concerned because two journalists died and several others were injured during the two government-initiated crackdowns on red shirt protesters in April and May.

At several points the report refers to “black-clad protesters” who were armed but does not raise questions as to who these people were, simply noting on one occasion that they were located with red shirt protesters. The CPJ takes this as evidence that the red shirts were neither always peaceful nor unarmed. PPT has several times raised questions about the identity, number and affiliation of the black clad group, but the chances are that the answers will never be forthcoming from any independent source.

At the same time, PPT has repeatedly stated that – despite rumors that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has covered-up army deaths on 20 May – the body count of injuries and deaths is overwhelmingly on the side of the red shirts. This tells us that the military and their supporters in the crackdowns had the weight of weaponry on their side.

In fact, the CPJ report, while making the above observations and claiming that the “United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) … leaders took cues from self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra…” saves most of its critical comments for the current Abhisit regime. As the report is long, PPT won’t summarize it here. Rather, we highlight some quotes:

“Journalists said that in several instances troops fired in a random manner into crowds of apparently unarmed demonstrators, frequently in areas where reporters were present. Their news reports and interviews with CPJ also highlighted the presence of heavily armed, black-clad protesters who fired gunshots and launched grenades at troops deployed in areas where journalists were positioned.”

“Preliminary government investigations into the violence have been incomplete and opaque…. Private investigations launched by concerned news organizations, foreign embassies, and family members of the deceased have been obstructed or denied access to key information in the government’s possession. Thus far, no one has been brought to account for the killings and the other critical injuries.”

…[T]here is no precedent to believe that the Thai government will bring any of its security forces to account for abuses.”

“Soldiers were firing at anything or anybody.”

Elisabetta Polenghi commenting on her brother Fabio’s death by gunshot stated: “there are conflicting accounts from police and the Justice Ministry about the precise location of her brother’s wounds, which she did not see herself before his body was cremated. She also noted that many of Polenghi’s personal belongings, including his camera and telephone, are now missing.”

“Nelson Rand, a freelance contributor to television news channel France 24, was shot in the wrist, leg, and abdomen while covering a gun battle on May 14 outside of the city’s Lumpini Park…. Despite the international media attention given to his case, Rand said no police or government official ever approached him about the shooting.”

Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto was killed by a gunshot on 10 April: “One Bangkok-based diplomat with knowledge of a … private investigation claimed that the government has in its possession, but has refused to release, closed circuit television footage of the Din Saw Street area where Muramoto is believed to have been around the time of his death.”

“The concerns about official transparency coincide with a mounting government clampdown on the local media and criticism of foreign reporting of recent events. Since declaring a state of emergency on April 7, the government closed an opposition-aligned satellite television station, 26 community radio stations, four print publications, and 32 websites.”

Chandler Vandergrift, a freelance reporter on assignment for the Toronto Star, suffered severe injuries after being hit by shrapnel on 19 May: “… no government officials have formally contacted him about the shooting. ‘I don’t expect to receive justice…. Nobody receives justice in Thailand. Why would I?’.”

The report ends with a list of CPJ recommendations. The report is worth consideration in full.



5 responses

30 07 2010
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