A debate has begun on who were the shooters at Laksi on Saturday. Essentially, it is a debate that seeks to rewrite history as it has happened, and is prompted by support for the anti-democrats amongst the Army and mainstream media. They seek to deny the evidence of video and pictures.
We expect the anti-democrats will again scam a story that suits their interests and denies the evidence. But let’s look at the “story” so far.
At Khaosod it was reported that the Laksi “battle” of last Saturday:
… erupted in the evening of 1 February when scores of pro-election protesters, mostly Redshirts, attempted to retake Laksi District Office from the besieging anti-election protesters led by the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD).
A police forensics director stated that his team’s investigation showed “39 shots have been fired from the position of PCAD protesters, and 3 shots from the direction of pro-election protesters.” He said the shells recovered were from weapons “such as AK-47, carbine rifles, and a shotgun. Bullet cases of several types of handguns were also found in the scene.”
This led to claims about “military weapons” being used.
At the Bangkok Post, the military was quick to complain about claims that its men were involved in the clash, perhaps as “men-in-back.” A spokesman said:
The army was not involved in the clash between People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters and red-shirts at Laksi intersection on Feb 1, even though some of the weapons used might be similar to military weaponry….
The spokesman said: “the types of weapons mentioned by the police were used not only by the military but also by police, and many other people.” He added: “The army … has a strict rule on control of weapons. Moreover, during this period there are no missions requiring soldiers to go out with weapons…”.
Of course, we know that the military has, in the past, had problems of control over their weapons. Ignoring this, the spokesman says this:
What is worrying is the fact that a large number of army weapons had been seized by protesters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) during the 2010 political violence and not all of them had been retrieved.
We understood that many of these weapons had been returned to the Army, but we haven’t seen their accounting. Yet this claim seems to suggest that red shirts were involved in the shooting on Saturday. That is an important claim to be considered further below.
The army spokesman was also quoted as saying that “soldiers who were at the Laksi intersection confirmed that during the clash shots were fired from many different directions.”
He seems to be making a case that both sides were gunned up and shooting. And he criticized the police:
Therefore, before arriving at a conclusion and making it public the police should thoroughly examine the evidence so that their findings are acceptable to society beyond doubt, otherwise their credibility could be affected, he said.
“Please don’t rush to make a conclusion because it could be expanded to be a conflict by ill-intentioned people. The conclusion made in haste may also cause authorities concerned to be misled and result in injustice.
Such claims seem to have sent The Nation on a tack of sharing blame rather than sheeting it home to the anti-democrats. It draws heavily on the military account:
Gunshots were fired from both anti- and pro-government crowds confronting each other in a firefight on Sunday [sic.] near the Lak Si intersection in northern Bangkok, Assistant Police chief Pol Lt Gen Jarumporn Suramanee said yesterday.
His statement has ended a dispute, made much of in social media, that anti-government protesters fired on the pro-government crowd. But he did not say who opened fire and refused to comment over which side’s weapons were “heavier.”
In other words, The Nation considers the matter over and the “truth” established. It confirms that its “conclusion” is based on the military’s response:
The police had earlier issued that the firing came mainly from a People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) group. It said it was aimed at a pro-election group who converged not far from the intersection, awaiting arrival of PDRC supporters from the inner city to blockade a ballot storage site in the Lak Si district office.
Within the few hours later, the army issued a statement that no conclusion should be made over which side fired their weapons or who opened fire until an official, comprehensive police investigation into the shooting was complete.
Deputy Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree said photos of anti-election supporters carrying guns were abundant in media footage because reporters had accompanied them all along, while there were no reporters embedded in the pro-election crowd.
So we have the military making excuses for the anti-democrats and trying to manipulate the evidence.
Meanwhile, anti-democrat leader Suthep Thaugsuban:
admitted two men wearing PDRC armbands firing pistols were his responsibility, and would investigate why they carried guns in violation of PDRC security regulations. He denied the PDRC had links with a two-man firing team seen shooting an automatic rifle from a large plastic sack.
For a start, this statement demolishes the earlier and official press release by the anti-democrats.
A side story is mentioned:
Deputy Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree yesterday dismissed as baseless and damaging an allegation by hardline red-shirt leader Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kotchathammakhun that Army commander in chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha wanted Wutthipong dead after the election. A legal action is being processed against him, Winthai said.
A couple of days later, and the Bangkok Post seems to be presenting the more contrived perspective, making careful and pointed claims:
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha insists weapons used during the shootout at Laksi intersection on Saturday were not from the army’s stockpiles.
All military weapons were accounted for and the soldiers assigned to help secure peace and order had not carried any, Gen Prayuth said.
This is a reasonably standard claim, even when weapons have been stolen or traded by soldiers in the past. But does he risk protesting too much?
If no official order was issued for the transfer of weapons or their use, then all military firearms must still be in the armoury, Gen Prayuth said.
“If weapons are taken out without anyone knowing then they had to have been stolen.
[The other explanation is] those weapons are not from the military, but from another place. Our inspection found no weapons were missing. Only firearms that were stolen from military armouries in 2010 have yet to be returned to the army.”
Hmm. Stolen from armories? Then the red shirt claim, made more forcefully:
“Let’s help the army find out where the missing M-16 and Tavor rifles are. Everybody knows very well where the stolen weapons are. There are images [of the stolen weapons]. Let’s ask the people involved to explain where the missing weapons are and whether those weapons were used to shoot anyone,” said the army chief.
Prayuth is deliberately vague, but we are sure not everyone knows where the “missing” weapons are. Rather, putting this together with the earlier Army statement, Prayuth seems to be claiming that red shirts have been using military weapons to shoot people, presumably also including Laksi.
Prayuth then came up with a doosie when he said: “It is common to see people dress like soldiers and some civilians used to be military conscripts.”
Indeed, we have seen much military-style clothing on sale at the anti-democrat rallies and we have seen plenty of anti-democrat guards in military garb, and it is reported that military men are acting as anti-democrat guards…. Prayuth seems on shaky ground. He adds another odd one: “He urged critics not to view the use of grenades by armed men involved in the clash as a military strategy.”
Prayuth urged “people to think before believing in the veracity of images or news stories on social network sites.”
Leaving Prayuth, the story turns to the forensic analysis which says police “forensic officers had examined the scene of Saturday’s armed clash and found a total of 42 bullet holes.” While “bullet holes were found on both the anti-election and pro-election group sides of the intersection,” it was found that “39 were fired from the direction of the PDRC group and three shots were fired from the IT Square Building, where the red-shirt group had gathered.”
The police evidence is pretty clear, and is supported by the video and photographic evidence: the anti-democrats were armed and decidedly angry and dangerous.
Back to the side story about Ko Tee and the army chief’s alleged order to kill him. The report says
Gen Prayuth shrugged off the accusation, saying Mr Wuthipong is a nobody.
“Who is he? I pay no attention. State officers could not act against the law. Think whether you should believe him [Ko Tee] or me,” Gen Prayuth said.
To be honest, we’d have believed Prayuth if he hadn’t made the ridiculous claim about the law and state officers. Thailand’s modern history is replete with examples that show Prayuth’s statement is nonsense.
We have the feeling that Prayuth is protesting rather more loudly than he should be on this.