Wat Pathum inquest

5 08 2013

Wat PathumThe court is due to deliver its findings in the inquest into who was responsible for deaths of six civilians at Wat Pathum Wanaram on the last day of the 2010 red shirt protest, when the military cleared the protest site. As we hear more, PPT will post again. For brief background see here.

Real amnesty?

19 07 2013

A few days ago at the Bangkok Post it was reported that relatives of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown by the Army and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government on red shirts are to submit an alternative amnesty bill to parliament, which has six other amnesty bills to consider.

Phayao Akkahad, whose daughter Kamolkade was killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010, said the relatives’ bill meant that: “People from all colours will be absolved of any offence they committed or had committed against against them, except for core leaders…”. The relatives’ bill will “seek to bring to justice those who made the decision” on the crackdown. It would also “allow judicial lawsuits to be pressed against persons or groups that killed people and/or damaged private property” and “does not prevent private entities whose properties were damaged in the unrest from launching civil suits against vandals or arsonists…”. Importantly, the relatives have specified “which actions, not persons, will be granted an amnesty…”.

The relatives have now submitted their draft bill to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

PPT thought this proposed bill made sense. Hence, we were somewhat surprised when, at The Nation, Democrat Party leader Abhisit was reported as being “prepared to back an amnesty bill proposed by relatives of the victims of the 2010 crackdown, provided the government withdraws all previous versions of the amnesty bill proposed to Parliament.”

But at the Bangkok Post, it is reported that the reprehensible royalist added an important caveat: “the bill needed to make sure that those involved in corruption and offences against the monarchy are not included under the amnesty.”

Everyone knows that the corruption bit refers to Thaksin Shinawatra. But the monarchy bit is part of the never-ending project to re-energize a declining monarchy that royalists consider central to their world.

PPT wasn’t alone in its surprise, for the Democrat Party immediately came under heavy criticism from red shirt-hating royalists.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut was quick to dismiss “criticism that the party has supported an amnesty aimed at exonerating those involved in instigating public disturbances during the 2010 political violence.” He pointed out that his reading of the relatives’ bill was that it “clearly separates offences in violation of the emergency rule and minor offences during the 2010 unrest.”

Bright yellow unelected Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn attacked the Democrat Party and called for it “to clarify its stance on the people’s amnesty bill.” His reading of the bill is that it is “modelled on an amnesty bill proposed by the Nitirat group” and “seeks to grant an amnesty to offenders who violated Section 112 [lese majeste] and to those who set fire to government buildings.” Oops, the royalist whip has been cracked.

Chavanond had Abhisit and the Democrat Party immediately in reverse, saying “the party will not support an amnesty for these violations…”. In other words, Abhisit is not (now) supporting any reasonable amnesty bill, and neither is the Democrat Party.


Remembering 2010

19 05 2013

As another anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s army-led crackdown on red shirts is upon us, it is worth recalling that it is only a year or so ago that the Department of Special Investigation reported its investigations of the deaths.

DSI stated back then that state authorities “may be responsible for the deaths of at least 25 people…”.

Since then, while the DSI under the Yingluck Shinawatra has made some moves towards having Abhisit and Suthep Thaugsuban held responsible, it seems the army brass is again sitting in the world of unconscionable impunity (more on this below).

A series of recent reports reflect on the tragic events of 2010 and on the events since.

At the Red Shirts blog, it is reported that on 12 May 2013, a hearing finally:

took place at the Bangkok Criminal Court on the investigation and autopsy reports concerning 6 corpses found inside the Pathumwan Temple grounds. These victims were shot dead during the government suppression of the UDD protest on May 19, 2010.

Police investigators found bullet holes and:

reported that many more bullet holes could be found all over the temple grounds. Bullet holes were found on a metal sign in front of the temple, on the wall of the temple, on the advertisement sign under the BTS sky train, on the sky walk connecting the sky train stations, on the overpass and many more on the concrete platforms of the sky train.

Soldiers denied investigators access to the sky train tracks and the sky walk area.

Police ballistic analysis showed “23 bullet holes found on the temple grounds and Rama 1 Road …indicated that these shots had been fired from a higher angle and definitely not from a horizontal line of fire.” There was no evidence reported of shots from inside the temple.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the “parents of a boy who was killed as security forces moved in to clear the Ratchaprasong area … claim …  not enough is being done to find the people responsible for their son’s death.”

Pansak Srithep, was the father of 17-year-old Samapan, his only son. Samapan was killed on Ratchaprarop Road, where several people were shot dead. Pansak said “it has been draining for him and other families of those killed during the unrest to struggle to find witnesses willing to appear in court.”

Pansak “wants the government … to do more to help, and said investigators could do more to help with the court cases.” He claimed the Yingluck government “lacked the will to help…”.

The Bangkok Post states that there are currently “37 cases are at the initial inquest stage,” while “[a]nother 15 cases, including the death of Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto and six deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram, are at a stage where authorities are still determining if the security forces were responsible.” Another four cases “are awaiting a decision from prosecutors as to whether they will proceed,” and five others, “including that of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawatdiphol, known as Seh Daeng,” are at initial stages of police investigation.

The family of Kamolkate Akkahad, a medic shot at Wat Pathum Wanaram, are “also dismayed by the slow progress…”. They “will not join the main [official red shirt] stage during the event on Sunday.”army-snipers

At Prachatai it is reported that on 29 April, “the Criminal Court began an inquest into the deaths of Mana Saenprasoetsi and Phonsawan Nakhachai who were shot at Bon Kai on Rama IV Rd on 15 May 2010…”. They were two of 16 killed at this location, where video evidence shows army operations, including snipers.

Mana “was fatally shot in the back of the head near the mouth of Soi Ngam Duplee … while he was trying to help people who had been shot there.” Phonsawan, who was assisted by Mana later succumbed to his stomach gunshot wound.

Mana’s  mother Naree stated he was shot “while holding a red-cross flag in his hand”and helping two others who had been shot.

Soon after his death, the authorities (mis)used photos of Mana to justify actions that took place some distance from where he was shot.

Another story at the Bangkok Post directs attention to red shirt dissent on the Puea Thai government’s amnesty push:

Some red shirts see the proposal championed by Deputy Premier Chalerm Yubamrung as a betrayal because it would cover senior Democrat Party figures who were in government when the military crackdown on the Bangkok rally took place three years ago Sunday.

Of course, the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra lot oppose amnesty as a move to bring the man home. Thaksin is due to address supporters via videolink this weekend.

As PPT has stated several times, a blanket amnesty “would simply perpetuate the culture of impunity in Thailand, where senior figures rarely take responsibility for anything…”. The report adds:

Prominent scholars have been criticising the Pheu Thai flip-flop in social media forums. They include Nitirat Group core member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul; Thammasat University scholars Kasian Tejapira and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Hard-core red-shirt activists Nithiwat Wannasiri, Jittra Kotchadet and Suda Rungkuphan also oppose the Chalerm plan.

 They say the party is betraying the red-shirt rank and file, as if a hundred deaths and a thousand injuries were simply the price to pay for the party’s compromise with the old establishment for the sake of its own survival.

PPT reiterates that those responsible for the murder of civilians must be brought to justice as an important step to rooting out the culture of impunity that state officials and the military has when murdering civilians.


5 05 2013

Several inquests recent political deaths are continuing. Three recent reports on these caught PPT’s attention.

The first was at Prachatai a few days ago and is a report on the inquest into the death in custody of lese majeste victim Ampol Tangnopakul in May 2012. The inquest began in February 2013. This report recounts evidence provided by fellow lese majeste convict Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul, who provided great support to Ampol when in jail together.

Tanthawut’s testimony included details of overcrowding and work assignments that were beyond Ampol’s capacity as a sick and aged man. For example, he was assigned “to produce 5 kilograms of paper cups or about 2,500 cups each day.” However, he never reached the target.

He also commented on medical facilities and pointed out that the Bangkok Remand Prison has extremely limited medical capacity, with doctors visiting twice a week. Only “20 prisoners are allowed to go to the medical facility, and each prisoner is allowed to go there only once a week.” Ampol told Tanthawut that:

when he went to the medical facility for the first time, the doctors did not diagnose his illness, but gave him painkillers for his stomach pain. Only when he cried out the second time did the doctors examine him, but with some contemptuous remarks about his alleged offences to the monarchy.

His condition worsened and he was eventually sent to the Corrections Hospital on 4 May 2012, and died four days later.

The second report is about a “friendly fire” death of a soldier. Back in 2010, the BBC and other outlets reported a case of a soldier being killed by what seemed like “friendly fire.” The inquest found that “Private Narongrit Sala from the Second Battalion of the Ninth Infantry Division in Kanchanaburi was killed by a high-velocity bullet fired from one of the troops operating in the area [Don Muang]…” on 28 April 2010. A high-velocity bullet hit Narongrit at “his left elbow, travelled through to the skull and destroyed brain tissue…. The court concluded that the bullet was fired by a soldier operating in the area.”

MCOT reports that he “was fatally shot by a high-speed bullet which passed through his upper left eyebrow to the skull…. The bullet was fired from a military weapon.” There seems there was no doubt that Narongrit was killed by “friendly fire” as the inquest was concluded quickly with none of his relatives at the hearing and no “plaintiff and related military officials.”

The third report is of an inquest into the deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram. A senior police officer has testified to the court that “military personnel were acting suspiciously when he and his men investigated Pathumwanaram Temple, where 6 civilians were murdered during the crackdown on Redshirts protest on 19 May 2010.”

Pol. Lt. Col. Sutad Chaiprom explained that

… he and his bomb squad were sent to collect evidences at Pathumwanararm Temple … on the morning after the incident. He said he found a number of automatic rifles at the temple, but they were all clearly army-issued firearms, and the soldiers were already stationed inside the temple when his team arrived.

He provided examples of military interference with his investigation saying that when “his men requested a closer investigation at a pond inside the temple, but they were refused by the military officials.”

Targeting Tharit

4 01 2013


The story at The Nation on Phayao Akkahad, mother of the murdered medic Kamolkade Akkahad going after Department of Special Investigation chief, Tharit Pengdit is telling for its clarity and precision.

Kamolkade was probably killed by Army shooters, who shot her five times, as she tended to wounded at Wat Pathum Wanaram as the Abhisit Vejjajiva government cleared red shirt protesters in May 2010. Phayao states that Tharit, a member of the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), which was responsible for ordering the crackdown, “cannot be absolved from his responsibility for the people killed in … 2010…”. As the report has it, “Payao explained that if other CRES members were found guilty, there is no reason why Tarit should not be held responsible as well.”

Phayao wants the Yingluck Shinawatra government to remove Tharit and “complained that former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his then-deputy Suthep Thaugsuban were not detained like other red shirts when the DSI accused them of having the intention to murder in relation to the 2010 crackdown.”

Finally, she wants “all Army officers involved in ordering and carrying out the alleged shooting of protesters in 2010 should also be prosecuted.” She is correct when she observes that: “If we don’t prosecute soldiers now, then they will end up engaging in such ‘operations’ again and again…”.

Wat Pathum Wanaram inquest

19 12 2012

Many PPT readers will have already seen the recently-posted Prachatai account of the South Bangkok Criminal Court “inquest into the deaths of six people who were killed at Pathum Wanaram Temple near Ratchaprasong intersection after the dispersal of the red-shirt protests on 19 May 2010.” Somehow PPT has missed accounts of this first hearing, now almost a week ago, in the mainstream media, so we highlight it here. soldiers on bts 2

The Prachatai report of witness testimony is vivid and disturbing, with graphic accounts of soldiers shooting into the temple and at medics, red shirts and journalists. The report suggests that, along with other testimony in other inquests, that as Achara Ashayagachat of the Bangkok Post observed, it is “undeniable that we have not seen much concrete progress in the investigation by the police, fact-finders and prosecutors into the previous government’s decision to violently disperse the red shirts, which was tantamount to a licence to kill.” Hopefully, this progress can be maintained and that the culture of impunity is challenged.

Nostitz, HRW and 2010

26 10 2012

PPT was scrolling through some of the posts at New Mandala earlier today and noted a brief exchange on an old posting, with an intriguing recent comment from photojournalist Nick Nostitz.

Readers will know Nostitz as the author of two books on recent street politics in Thailand. His most recent post at New Mandala was on the Democrat Party’s “men in black” sham rally. It will also be recalled that Human Rights Watch released a much debated and criticized report on the events of 2010 about a year after the military crackdown was concluded. That report is available here.

The genesis of Nostitz’s comment on the HRW report is a poke he receives from one of the yellow-shirted antagonists who regularly comment at New Mandala, Vichai N. This Vichai asks about Nostitz and the HRW, sort of implying that Nostitz was unreliable [reliable we fixed a typo here] as he wasn’t cited in that rather biased and incomplete report. For PPT, Nostitz’s response is revealing of the methods used by HRW, and should come as no surprise to those who follow HRW’s side-taking in Thailand.

Nostitz reveals that “HRW investigators” interviewed him.” He then explains that HRW:

decided not to include my accounts, especially over the killing zone incident, as the believed another person who wasn’t even there during the incident and at the day, and had very little background knowledge or contacts (we had quite an argument during the interview over this, which pissed me off tremendously, especially as this was only a very short time after this whole mess, when i was psychologically still very stressed).

Nostitz goes no to explain that HRW “decided to believe the massive discrediting campaign that at the time was launched by the DP [Democrat Party-led] government against me, and decided not to listen to the people who supported me [his account]…”. He adds that the HRW account of the killings at Wat Pathum Wanaram was shallow and accepting of “simplistic” media stories.

Nick Nostitz

On the HRW report, he concludes: “It has merit, but also some weaknesses which could have been avoided.”

As an aside, Nostitz comments on the role played by HRW’s Sunai Phasuk, claiming that “contrary what many believe, was not part of the HRW report.” Given that Sunai is an employee of HRW and their designated “researcher,” this assertion demands more detail, especially as Sunai was reporting to HRW throughout the period the report discusses. Nostitz claims that “Sunai is one of the very few people here who are extremely knowledgeable, factual and objective, and do walk neutral ground.” Nostitz is simply wrong to claim that Sunai is “neutral.” While we agree that he is knowledgeable, PPT has demonstrated Sunai’s pro-coup bias (found here, here, here, here, here and here).


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