Opposing impunity

3 06 2013

In one of our recent posts, PPT commented on the Army’s continuing efforts to maintain the impunity it has historically had when murdering its own citizens. One of the concerns amongst red shirt groups and others who saw family and friends gunned down in 2010 is that some of the proposed amnesty bills will result in political and military leaders being immune from prosecution. Unfortunately, this is a real possibility, and in recent days the families of some of those killed have spoken out.

At Khao Sod it is reported that Elisabetta, sister of murdered photo-journalist Fabio Polenghi has “expressed her opposition to any bill that will grant amnesty to those responsible of the military operation which resulted in her brother′s death.” She states she has particular concerns about a draft bill proposed by deputy premier Chalerm Yubamrung,

which would grant amnesty to all those involved in political cases from 2006 to 2010 including former PM Abhisit Vejjajeeva, who had been charged with murders for his role in ordering crackdown against the Redshirts; the military would also benefit from the amnesty.

She pleaded with ruling party parliamentarians, “insisting that absolving the authorities of their responsibility would destroy every effort she and other families of the victims had been putting into their quest for justice in the last 3 years.” She was not opposed to an amnesty for leaders once they had been convicted.

Elisabetta added that she supported an “amnesty bill that helped political prisoners who were jailed for their roles in the 2010 protests.”

An interesting footnote to the story is that Abhisit has contacted Elisabetta, seeking a meeting. She invited him to join her at the event this report comes from, but he declined.

Meanwhile, at The Nation, it is reported that relatives of some of the victims from 2010 have also expressed opposition to Chalerm’s draft bill and any others that grant amnesty to murderers. Nurse Kamolkade Akkahad was killed, and her family has been at the forefront of moves for accountabuility. Her brother Nattapat and mother Phayao held a press conference to express opposition. They “also called for the removal of Tarit Pengdith, head of the Department of Special Investigation, from its team probing the killings.”

Phayao expressed the family’s position:

first, they confirmed that they did not ignore people now imprisoned due to accusations during “Black May” protests in 1992 as they stated that they would support the people’s bill. Secondly, they reject both the National Reconciliation Bill and the Amnesty Bill, as they don’t want to see culprits get off without being punished for their actions. Thirdly, they said if the head of the DSI (Department of Special Investigation) remained, the truth would not be revealed. DSI chief Tarit Pengdith should resign, as Tarit was part of the Centre of Resolution for the Emergency Situation – and thus a suspect in terms of those responsible for killings.

Nattapat said the government and red-shirt leaders had ignored them: “We feel like being a political piece of meat, that we have no meaning to them – they’re just using us if they feel they want to.” He also said of the military: “I’m not afraid of you”.

Thaksin Shinawatra is on record as having “told his red-shirt followers he favours an amnesty bill that excludes not only protest leaders and those responsible for the crackdowns, but also himself.” If this was not more than a bit of political blarney, Thaksin needs to say it again and again. The state’s impunity must end.

Seeking impunity

2 06 2013

With the Army insisting on its innocence, it has responded to the recent court inquest on the death of Fabio Polenghi, a photo-journalist killed in the military’s clearing of red shirts on 19 May 2010.

A report in Khaosod states that the inquest finding that Fabio was killed by a military bullet fired from the direction of the troops “was the first official act which linked the military′s role to death of Mr. Polenghi, after 3 years of silence and denial.”

Almost immediately, however,  Army spokesman Colonel Wintai said  that:army-snipers

… [while] the bullet may have been fired from the military position at the time, but the security forces had not taken control of all highrise buildings in the area, suggesting that Mr. Fabio might have been killed by unknown militants who took shelter in such buildings.

This claim is a fiction – “Col. Wintai′s remark contradicts with the court inquest which indicated that no other armed elements are believed to be involved in Mr. Polenghi′s death” – it this is the Army brass narrative  maintained since it murderous crackdown.

The Army has always had impunity when it has murdered Thai citizens and the creation of disingenuous accounts is a part of that process, no matter  that the evidence shows snipers, live fire zones and so on.

Colonel Wintai made the brass’s fictional account more bizarre when he said that:

A guardian photo

A Guardian photo

the military had not fired their weapons around the time of Mr. Polenghi′s death. As for numerous videos suggesting otherwise, Col. Wintai dismissed them as propaganda “spread by ill-intentioned people” who want to defame the military.

In other words, the Army says believe our nonsensical claims and reject the evidence.

Wintai joins the Army’s tale with the Democrat Party narrative that is designed to protect then premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban who ordered the murderous crackdown. He says:

Shooting red shirts

Shooting red shirts

The footage only show events in which the personnel exchanged fire with armed militants who obstruct our operation in the area. This happened long after Fabio′s death….

There is much video evidence and many witness accounts that contradict this fabrication.

Of course, the Army is never prepared to provide any evidence in courts as it seeks to maintain its capacity for murdering civilians in defense of itself and the monarchical state.

HRW and orders

30 05 2013

PPT draws attention to a statement by Thailand representative for Human Rights Watch, Sunai Pasuk in a Bangkok Post article on the murder of Fabio Polenghi.

Sunai is right when he says that “the finding highlighted the need to hold the military to account for the 2010 deaths…”. He’s also right to complain about the Yingluck Shinawatra Government apparent decision to not hold soldiers responsible for their actions in April and May 2010 is legal  travesty.

However, Sunai also makes a remarkable claim: “According to Human Rights Watch’s research, there was no order given to shoot unarmed civilians…”.

PPT has not heard such a claim previously and has not seen the “research” Sunai says his organization conducted.

As Andrew Spooner points out, this claim seems different from a recent HRW statement on this matter.

Sunai needs to make the “research” he cites available or explain his claim.

The Army responsible for journalist’s death

29 05 2013

Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photo-journalist, was shot and killed during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s crackdown on red shirt protesters on 19 May 2010.

An inquest has been in train for some time. Now Reuters reports that he was killed “by a bullet fired by a soldier…”.

From Fabio Polenghi's funeral in Bangkok on 24 May 2010

From Fabio Polenghi’s funeral in Bangkok on 24 May 2010

Karom Ponthaklang, a lawyer for the journalist’s family, is reported to have told reporters: “The court ruled that orders given by Prime Minister Abhisit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep that day led to Fabio’s death…”.

The lawyer urged that the Department of Special Investigations “press charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and [his then deputy] Suthep Thaugsuban.”

Fabio’s sister, Elisabetta added that those held responsible for his death should be “at least the person leading the operation on the ground.”

Like many others, PPT believes that those responsible must be held accountable and that responsibility rests with the civilians and military brass who ordered the crackdown using military weapons,declared live fire zones and authorized the use of live ammunition.

The inquest on Fabio’s death

16 03 2013

A few days ago PPT posted on the inquest 0n the 19 May 2010 killing of journalist Fabio Polenghi during the Army crackdown ordered by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government that is continuing and  approaching a conclusion. More than 20 witness testimonies have been heard by the court and on 15 March it was hoped the court would hear 2-3 witnesses considered very important by his family.

A brief report at The Nation states that the German journalist Michel Maas, who was also shot, told the judges: “Bullets came from the direction of the military…“. Maas added that:

the bullet that hit him came from the direction of the military, and that the bullet, which was lodged inside his body for five weeks, was later identified by Department of Special Investigation (DSI) experts as an M16 rifle round. The bullet was given to the DSI as evidence, Maas told the court.

However, the Criminal Court, which will rule on 29 May refused to hear “two other witnesses, including one foreign national who videotaped the moment [Fabio]… fell, were not allowed to testify as judges said their testimony would be redundant to the trial.”

At a journalist’s blog, gjbkk blog, there is a fuller account of this action by the court, more information on witness statements and some detail regarding lies from 2010 by then Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

Fabio Polenghi inquest

12 03 2013
From Fabio Polenghi's funeral in Bangkok on 24 May 2010

From Fabio Polenghi’s funeral in Bangkok on 24 May 2010

Readers in Bangkok will be interested to know that the inquest for the killing of journalist Fabio Polenghi during the Army crackdown ordered by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government is continuing and is approaching a conclusion. So far, more than 20 witness testimonies have been heard by the court. The last hearing will be on Friday, 15 March at the Criminal Court, Charoenkrong 63 Road (BTS Sapan Taksin).

At this sitting, 2-3 witnesses considered very important by his family will present their testimonies. The family hopes that there will be justice for Fabio, with truths being revealed.

Fabio’s sister, Elisabetta states: “I really wish many of you could be next to me on this, in one of the most important and decisive moments of the hearings, to show the Judge that we do care about our life. Looking forward to see you [at the court].”

Fabio Polenghi inquest

7 12 2012

The Bangkok Post has a long report on the first day of the inquest into the death of Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi, who was killed by a high-velocity bullet during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration’s violent crackdown on red shirt protesters in May 2010. Three witnesses told the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court that “they believed that … Fabio Polenghi died from shots fired by the military…”.

American freelance documentary film maker Bradley Cox “told the court that he did not see or hear any single gunshot from where the red-shirt protesters were, but clearly heard shots from the Lumpini and Sala Daeng sides, where military were zeroing in.” He added: “Although I could not prove or identify who shoot Fabio or me, I’m 100% certain that it was the army…”.

Taxi motorcyclist Kwanchai Sowapas “told the court that it was army soldiers who shot Polenghi, because he saw them on that side, some 70 metres away from him and some 30 to 40 metres from the Italian photo-journalist.”

This is another important case in a process that appears to be seeking to end the impunity of officials in instances of state murder.

Bangkok Post misleads (again)

17 10 2012

At the Bangkok Post website, the headline is “B1m bounty put up for men in black,” followed by this: “DSI offers cash lure to solve five key cases.” As far as we can tell, both are wrong, and the first is probably deliberately misleading and reflective of the Post’s political bias.

The first line of the story is also misleading and biased: “The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has offered a bounty of 1 million baht for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of ‘men in black’ suspects linked to the 2010 political violence.”

That the Post is concocting its headlines is seen in the detail of the story, where it is stated that, first, there are seven cases, not five. Second, when the the cases are listed, the very first one is: “The case of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, who was shot to death near Silom subway station…”. PPT has never heard any suggestion that “men in black” acted as snipers to kill Seh Daeng. Nor has any claim of “men in black been associated with the murder of Fabio Polenghi, another of the listed cases.

While a couple of the other six cases have been linked in various reports to the mysterious “men in black,” certainly, this story is not about a reward that is solely about cases related to allegations of “men in black.” The Bangkok Post is allowing its yellow colors to be clearly seen in this a politicized beat up.


Where were the black shirts?

29 09 2012

Michel Maas, a reporter from the Netherlands, was shot while on the air talking to Dutch radio on 19 May 2010. Recently he testified to the Department of Special Investigation as a witness on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s crackdown on red shirt protesters. At Prachatai it is reported that he was on Ratchadamri Rd near Lumpini Park, said by the government and Army to be occupied by black shirt militants.

He believes he was shot by a bullet “fired from the direction where soldiers were deployed at Ratchadamri intersection…”. While shot in the back, he was lucky not to be hit in the chest or head, which was the most common “kill shot.”

He told DSI that he “used his camera to zoom in the direction of Ratchadamri Rd near Chulalongkorn Hospital to look for ‘men in black’, and saw soldiers, heavily armed, firing toward the protesters, where he stood…. He saw the protesters carrying only wooden sticks and one small Thai home-made handgun.”

At the new Red Shirts blog, Maas is quoted from an interview for “reporters and the DSI on the spot where he was shot two years ago.”

On armed “men in black,” he told reporters:

No, I didn’t see any. I heard the stories too. I was looking around and checking for people running around with sniper rifles or any kind of rifles. All I saw were people with sticks and small Molotov cocktails which couldn’t do much harm, all hand-made, not really impressive. The only weapon was a revolver that looked about 60 years old, or home-made, again, not very impressive. It was the only gun I saw in the Red Shirt camp.

Michel added:

I have very little doubt in my mind who shot me because the bullet, that I still have, came from an M16 and, according to people who know, the experts say it was a military gun. What bothers me is that this bullet appears to be the only surviving bullet from the whole operation. It’s incredible. The bullet that killed Fabio [Polenghi] is gone…. I can say with 100% confidence that the military shot at protesters that day. I can’t say that they were the only ones shooting, but they were the only ones I saw with my own eyes.


Soldiers shot Fabio

24 07 2012

An AFP report states that Army soldiers are “believed to have shot an Italian photographer who was killed during mass opposition street protests in 2010 in Bangkok…”.

The statement came as police gave evidence to an official inquest.

Police have “questioned 47 witnesses and experts over the death of Fabio Polenghi and gathered evidence to submit to prosecutors.” Their conclusion is that “his death was believed to have been [from] a gunshot from the authorities on duty…”.

That last bit is important as a soldier on duty can get immunity from prosecution. As the report states,

No soldiers or officials have been prosecuted in connection with the deaths during the unrest, prompting anger from relatives and rights groups, who say those responsible are being protected by a culture of impunity in Thailand.

Polenghi was shot and killed on 19 May 2010 as  soldiers fired thousands of rounds of live ammunition as they moved to clear red shirt demonstrators.

The Army is essentially a tool of internal repression in Thailand and has killed thousands of political opponents over several decades.

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