Shooting and killing

1 09 2012

The long-promised People’s Information Centre (PIC) report on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s 2010 crackdown on red shirts is about to be released. The Nation reports that the PIC “claims there were 94 deaths from all sides.”

Puangthong Pawakapan says that there were “many ‘stray’ deaths, of those who had nothing to do with the protests but were hit by stray bullets.” PPT will wait to see more on this as we can’t help believing that soldiers with scopes and high-powered war weapons are not likely to be shooting like drunks hunting. In fact, “almost 30 per cent of the deaths resulted from bullet wounds on their heads. And if combined with another 22 per cent who died from gunshot wounds on the chest, the figure is above 50 per cent.” That seems pretty clear on shooting to kill particular targets.

PIC also shows that the “death and violence” in May 2010 occurred as soon as the “military operations began from May 14…”. There is mention that military accounts of events make it clear that “the ‘success’ of the military operation [was]… credited to the use of live bullets against protesters.”

On so-called men in black, PIC’s Puangthong says:

there is no clarity as to who they were and even the [Abhisit Vejjajiva] government has failed to trace them. Also, deaths and injuries occurred on the afternoon of April 10, [2010], before the claim by the Abhisit administration and the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) that it occurred in the evening [after clashing with ‘men in black’].

The [Abhisit] government says those who died were terrorists but in the evidence we gathered, we discover no traces of gunpowder on the hands of any of those killed.

On the deployment of Army snipers, Puangthong makes the obvious point: “There are so many video clips on the Internet showing many soldiers using telescopic guns…. This is no shooting for self-defence [as claimed by the Abhisit government].”

On responsibility:

The mastermind, the head of the government, the one who gave orders at the CRES and the person/s who came up with Army strategy. It is the responsibility of those who employed military means to disperse the protest and failed to control it.

Will impunity be overturned and Abhisit, Suthep Thaugsuban and the military brass face courts?





Rubber bullets…

30 08 2012

The Nation has a slightly different take on the “fake bullets” headline from TNN. It claims that the snipers “seven hours of questioning yesterday, two Army marksmen [PPT: that’s the political bias of The Nation, using the Army brass terminology for the snipers who didn’t get deployed but really did] dispatched during the political unrest of 2010 insisted they had used only rubber bullets when firing at approaching militant protesters…”.

Further, the claim was that they “used M-16 assault rifles and rubber bullets against militant red shirts who were trying to attack the security forces. They said the scope in a photo taken during their operation belonged to a BB gun, and not an assault rifle.”

PPT won’t get into the debate on who they claim to have been firing on. However, we do want to question the rubber bullets and BB gun scope claims, which appear to be only in The Nation.

“Rubber bullets”: we are not ballistics specialists, but we are skeptical. For a start, rather like TNN, the Bangkok Post refers to “blanks.” We will look at “rubber bullets” because claims like this one often grow to legend status especially amongst those who want to believe the Army. As far as we can tell, the claim is untrue for M-16s apparently require muzzle adapters to fire “rubber bullets” (see Box 1.5 9n this PDF) or the bullets have an extremely short range making any kind f scope unnecessary. If readers know more, let us know. At this point,we are filing this claim under “Lie.”

BB gun scope: Again, we are not experts, but a look at a few scopes for BB/air guns on the web suggests that to gun dopes like us, a scope’s a scope, and when properly fixed and sighted, a scope assists in targetting. Filed under “Trying to confuse.”

We’d like to hear more from people with more knowledge on this.





Prayuth, snipers, “fake” ammo

29 08 2012

The stories concocted by the military to deny its use of  snipers in April and May 2010 are now reaching such incredible levels that the Army is now destroying its very last few shreds of credibility. These most fantastical lies were apparently delivered to the Department of Special Investigation yesterday. But we turn first to Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Army boss said “he would cooperate if summonsed by the DSI.’ That seems pretty straightforward. But not, it seems, in the mind of the distracted and angry general, for it is immediately added that he “would have to check whether he had an important engagement on that date…. If he could not make himself available, he would assign an officer to represent him…”.

That means Prayuth isn’t going to show up. This deliberate snub of the investigation shows how much Prayuth values impunity and sets up for a clash between military brass and government.

Now back to the two army snipers who showed up yesterday. Recall that the military has repeatedly denied the use of snipers, despite evidence to the contrary. 

The report states: “Sgt Saringkan Taweecheep and Sgt Kacharat Niamrod of the 5th Cavalry Battalion were accompanied by a lawyer Lt-Col Burin Thongprapai of the Judge Advocate General’s Department…. They did not speak to the press.” The Post tells us nothing more.

However, Andrew Spooner has blogged on other reports. He refers to a short report at TNN24. This report states in its headline that the two snipers admitted that the fired at the “red shirt mob” but used “fake bullets.” Yes, that is the story. These men were assigned to the Bon Kai area, with M-16s, but they used some kind of blank cartridge.

We don’t blame these low-ranking men for this lie. Obviously their bosses have ordered them to make this ridiculous claim. Anyone still believes this bunch of liars masquerading as state-funded military brass must have fairies at the bottom of the garden or are blinded by nonsense political ideology.





Call CRES for snipers

23 08 2012

In case readers missed it at Prachatai and updating our earlier post:

According to Point 2.5 in the document [scanned in the article, in Thai],

‘In the case when [the authorities] find flagrant offences in which the perpetrators are using firearms against officials, or use weapons or explosives against military positions and important premises as specified by the CRES [Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations], the authorities are authorized to use firearms against the perpetrators to stop their actions.  But, if the perpetrators are mingling among the protesters to the extent that such use of firearms might endanger innocent people, the use of firearms is prohibited, except in cases where military units have already deployed marksmen sufficiently able to shoot to stop the activities.  In addition, if military units find targets but cannot themselves carry out the shooting, for example, because the targets are shielded, etc., the units can ask for support from snipers from the CRES.’

The document was approved by the CRES on 18 April 2010, signed by then Deputy Prime Minister and CRES Director Suthep Thaugsuban, among other high-ranking military officers.

According to the report, “Army spokesperson Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd admitted that the classified document was authentic, but expressed doubts about the real motivation of those who had leaked it.” He seems worried that the truth may emerge.

There’s more to read in the story about the Army, Abhisit Vejjajiva government and snipers.





Police seek snipers

19 08 2012

In a follow-up to our earlier post, the Bangkok Post reports that the police, despite pressure from Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha, is planning to call in military snipers. More significantly, the police say “they have evidence…”.

The evidence apparently allows “investigators … to identify armed members of an army sniper unit who may have had a role in causing injury and deaths in the 2010 violence.” The police say they will summon the snipers “to further investigate who should be held accountable…”.

Police investigators and DSI are said to be preparing for a joint meeting “on Monday to discuss how to proceed with the case.” As it is DSI that has to call in the snipers, the police might be seen as pressuring the DSI not to backslide (as the Army boss seems to want).

The report comes as “the Prime Minister’s Office recently appointed 50 police officers to the DSI as ‘investigators for special cases’ related to the 2010 events.”

Expect more whining and threats from the military brass.





Taking aim at Nitirat

18 08 2012

PPT doesn’t think it a coincidence that as the Army chief returns to threatening behavior that the (relatively quiet) Nitirat group receives threats. At Prachatai it is reported that on 17 August, members of Nitirat “went to Chanasongkhram Police Station to file a complaint after mysterious men had been seen at their [Thammasat University] offices taking photographs of their schedules to meet students.”

Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut told Prachatai that “similar incidents had seemed to happen more frequently lately at the campus in Tha Phrachan.”

The police say they want the university “to provide its security surveillance video footage for the police to investigate and consider whether the men in question had meant any harm.”

Members of Nitirat, who have argued for constitutional change and amending the lese majeste law, have good reason to be suspicious following the attack on Worachet in February by thugs who happen to be weapons “enthusiasts” and have been photographed as snipers and compared to Army marksmen in some photos.

Attacks on political opponents, threats against them, and raising the political temperature are all well-tried tactics used by the military over several decades. Of course, there is no evidence that the military is directly involved in any threat to members of Nitirat, yet the coincidences of recent events (“peace talks” in the south, Thaksin Shinawatra’s U.S. visit, continued discussion of the monarchy’s decline, Army statements on red shirt deaths, and charges against Robert Amsterdam and a translator) are striking.





With 3 updates: Army boss takes aim at Amsterdam

18 08 2012

Prayuth

Matichon has yet another story that indicates that Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cohort of politicized and coup-making generals are deeply worried that the long cherished impunity enjoyed by the Army (and other state officials) when it murders citizens is threatened.

Prayuth has sent one of his minions to the Lumpini police station to lodge a defamation complaint against red shirt lawyer and Thaksin Shinawatra’s international lawyer Robert Amsterdam and an unnamed Thai woman who is reportedly a “translator and owner of the Asia Update TV station.” We don’t think the translator is an owner; it probably means that the owner of Asia Update is also mentioned in the complaint.

The complaint apparently relates to a speech made by Amsterdam at a rally on 19 May. His English speech was translated and carried through Asia Update. The text of the speech was considered “insulting to the army, leading to damage and discredit the army…”. PPT reckons the Army is pretty good at discrediting itself.

It seems that the police officers sent the case forward on 17 August.

Amsterdam

The Matichon report states that the allegations attributed to Amsterdam relate to a statement he made regarding the fact that the Army purchased weapons from the U.S. and then used them to kill protesters. It is a fact that the Army has purchased weapons from the U.S. He also reportedly said that the Army received sniper training from the U.S. That is also true.

It is clear that Prayuth and his brass are trying to cover up and mislead regarding the Army’s murderous role in April and May 2010. Perhaps for the first time, the Army brass is concerned that they are being called out and might – just might – be held accountable for the murder of citizens.

It does seem remarkable that Prayuth would go after a translator. Is he that frightened by the “revelations” that he has to resort to such pathetic actions? How is he going to stop the videos and photos of the Army at work against civilians circulating? In this instance, the truth is already out there. If he believes he can still blot out the truth, his thinking is in a different century.

Update 1Prachatai (and reproduced at Thai E-News) has produced documentary evidence of the brass ordering the use of snipers. We won’t repeat it all here, but the implications for the Army leadership and the civilian leadership of the government are clear if there is any serious investigation. The Bangkok Post now has a short account of the Army boss going after Amsterdam and an “unidentified woman” who translated his speech.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post now has a short account of the Army boss going after Amsterdam and an “unidentified woman” who translated his speech.

Update 3: The Nation has a longer story, with some extra details.

 





Worachet’s assailants immediately released

1 03 2012

Prachatai has a disturbing story regarding the twin brothers who attacked Nitirat academic Worachet Pakeerut.

Suphot and Suphat Silarat, 30, turned themselves in to police, admitting that they had assaulted Worachet. According to the report, “[t]hey were charged with collaborating to commit a premeditated attack, causing physical and mental injuries.” The police released them!

The police say that “[s]ince they turned themselves in to police, they were temporarily released. The police had to wait for medical reports on Worachet’s injuries before bringing the two suspects to court.”

Apparently they were released without bail being required even though they may be subject to “imprisonment of up to three years and/or a fine of up to 6,000 baht” and “Suphat has been charged with committing physical attacks at several police precincts in northern Bangkok and Pathum Thani.” In addition, Suphot has a Facebook account and his photo section shows “pictures of guns and gun testing.” This includes a picture of one of the twins with a sniper’s rifle.

After reporting to the police, the suspects told reporters “that they disagreed with Nitirat which is running a campaign on Article 112.” They also threatened reporters. The police stated that “the father of the suspects said that Worachet deserved it and his sons were radicals.”

PPT draws attention to two issues. The first is that the pictures show the twins with arms, including a sniper’s rifle and ammunition. This reminds us of the attacks on red shirts in April and May 2010. The second is the double standards of releasing violent men with no bail. Think of Sondhi Limthongkul getting bail and of People’s Alliance for Democracy activists getting bail on very serious charges. Then consider all the red shirts denied bail. Think of old men charged with lese majeste repeatedly refused bail as “flight risks.” And think of all the lese majeste victims repeatedly asking for bail and being refused on remarkably flimsy grounds.

The double standards involved are breathtaking.





Revelations

30 06 2011

There have been several revelations in short reports in the media. Here are a couple that are of interest. Readers can decide which are likely to be most accurate:

1. Snipers are different: Referring to earlier reports, the Army’s spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd has managed to come up with his usual denials while also being revealing about the state’s snipers: “However, there were issues that needed to be understood regarding snipers. As the Army has already explained, Col Sansern said, operating troops who were in charge of protection are different from snipers, because snipers have to be deployed in covert places and are tasked with shooting targets as assigned. But the ‘protective troops’ under the command of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation were not deployed in covert places, and they were visible. These troops included gunners and patrols guarding their areas to prevent anyone from using war weapons to hurt innocent people and troops. The tasks of these troops and snipers are very different.” PPT assumes that he means the snipers were assigned the task of killing. Who controlled them? Who ordered the killing?

2. Abhisit Vejjajiva is the elite’s puppet: Okay, many will have already considered this to be true. However, these words, from an Abhisit supporter appear to provide confirmation: “Like many Democrat [Party element]’s, Kraisak [Choonhavan] worries about what lies in store for Abhisit should his political opponents triumph at the polls. ‘Abhisit was probably one of the best prime ministers we’ve had, and the establishment used him and now they’re going to throw him away,’ Kraisak said.” Teflon Mark the face of the royalist elite becomes Disposable Mark for his ill-fated decision to prove his personal legitimacy via the ballot box?

3. Puea Thai to form government/a deal has been done: PPT recently posted on the pessimism of some political pundits. Most commentators are expecting trouble if and when there is a Puea Thai government. But not Shawn Crispin at Asia Times. He’s always big on deep intelligence from unnamed sources claimed to be intelligence officials, close to the palace and/or with military connections. In this case, these sources lead him to believe that there have been “High-level secret talks between Thailand’s royal palace, military and self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra point towards a stable outcome to this Sunday’s highly anticipated election.” Of course, there are caveats in the story, but Crispin seems to buy the claims.

4. Thai soldiers intimidate Puea Thai voters: “Four Thai soldiers have been arrested in the northeast of Thailand for allegedly intimidating opposition activists ahead of a general election at the weekend, police said Wednesday. The arrests came after Puea Thai party canvassers complained the troops drove to their villages in Nakhon Ratchasima province and told them not to get involved in politics…”. We await the Army spokesman’s expected denial.

 





500 black shirts

27 06 2011

Prachatai has a wonderful summary account of a story at Matichon online that presents the views of one military officer on the events of April-May 2010, in which he participated.

The account carries considerable weight as it reports an article that “ appears in the Army Training Command’s Senathipat Journal, Vol 59, Issue 3, September–December 2010, as part of the army’s guidelines and case studies on military operations to solve urban unrest.”

In its reproduction of the first part of the article, Matichon helpfully posts the first part of the article and highlights “several interesting points…”.

The first relates to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claim at the Democrat Party’s Rajaprasong election rally last Thursday that it was he and not Teflon Mark – Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva – who “gave the order” for the crackdown on red shirt protesters.

However, “the article clearly states ‘the Prime Minister gave orders at the CRES meeting on 12 May for the military to start the operation as planned’.” We imagine that Suthep is dissembling or is saying something about the official chain of command. If Abhisit wasn’t giving orders, it would seem very strange. First, he was at the military base for a very long time and presumably wasn’t just hiding under the bed. Second, Abhisit made claims that he was in charge and so got little sleep as he was deeply involved in operational matters.

The second important point the article makes is that “the government always had a clear policy to use military measures to pressure the red shirts, and the policy of ‘tightening the circle’ was to end the demonstrations, not to open a dialogue.” It adds that this policy contributed the rejection of “a group of senators to offer themselves as mediators on the night of 18 May…”.

Third, the article claims that “part of the reason for the successful military operation was the withdrawal of Chair of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship Veera Musigapong and the death of Maj Gen Khattiya Swasdipol or Seh Daeng, because the UDD was deprived of its political and military strategists.”

Veera’s withdrawal has never been adequately explained. Other sources are less sure of Seh Daeng’s role, but if the military identified him as the red shirt military strategist, then Suthep’s bizarre claim that the red shirt leadership did him in makes no sense at all (not that it ever did for PPT). Suthep’s credibility has sunk below zero.

A fourth note of interest relates to the deployment of military units. Many commentators seem to have forgotten that this began with “sniper units … deployed in high buildings on Wireless Road, including the Kian Nguan and Bangkok Cable buildings.” Given the predominance of head and chest shots amongst the murdered, the use of military snipers is pretty clear.

A fifth claim about so-called black shirts is remarkable. It is stated that “CRES intelligence” had it that “there were about 500 armed terrorists among the red shirts, and they were equipped with war weapons including M79s, M16s, AK47s and Tavor-21s.”

Given the very low death and gunshot injury toll that is reported for the military, figures like this are startling. Were more military killed than the government has reported? If not, where are the weapons and the dead black shirts with their weapons? Wouldn’t the military snipers have had ample targets?

The report makes fascinating reading.