BANGKOK – The chief of Royal Thai Army insisted that the military was not involved in the deaths of 6 civilians shot dead as they sought shelter inside a temple during the 2010 military crackdown.
His comment contradicts the recent court inquest which confirmed that the 6 victims, including a volunteer nurse, were killed by soldiers stationed near Wat Pathumwanararm Temple. The military has always denied any involvement, despite stacks of evidences and witness' accounts.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said the court decision is not final, and the court is still investigating further details pertaining to the case. Only witnesses from the victims' side had been present at the court, he said, and the army had not had their chance to defend themselves.
He acknowledged that the court decision has to be accepted and the process should proceed "in accordance with the legal system." Nonetheless, the army chief insisted that he never gave order to kill civilians. None of his commanding officers ever admitted they had shot any civilian, he added.
“Ever since I joined the army, I have never seen anyone ordering soldiers to kill the people,” Gen. Prayuth told reporters. “So, to those who still think that soldiers killed people, please stop saying it.”
Gen. Prayuth added, “What happened during the protest was that the army only tried to keep the situation under control. We have our legal team to closely observe the issue … please stop looking at the army as the accused.”
Earlier, the mother of the volunteer medic shot dead inside the temple compound returned to Wat Pathum to conduct a ceremony in tribute to her daughter, accompanied by relatives who lost their loved ones in other incidents throughout the violence in April-May 2010.
Ms. Payao Akhard lit incense sticks and laid flowers, telling her dead daughter that they have justice at last.
“After 3 years, the court finally announced that the Army officers are to be responsible for this” said Ms. Payao, referred to the court inquest which detailed that Ms. Kamonkate Akhard and other victims were gunned down by soldiers stationed on the overlooking Skytrain track on 19 May 2010.
“No one can deny these facts” said Ms. Payao.
At the end of ceremony, Mr. Pansak Srithep, a father of 17 year old student killed – allegedly by the soldiers – in May 2010, read out a poem dedicated to the memory of those perished in the violence.
Ms. Payao said that the court inquest is just a beginning, and that she, Mr. Pansak, and other families of the victims would do their best to push for justice on behalf of their loved ones.
On the same day, Ms. Bang-orn Ponsen, 52, the mother of Mr. Panupong Ponsen, the Redshirt protester convicted of burning the office of Mahasarakham Provincial Authority in Mahasarakham province, asked the anti-government protesters to stop opposing the Amnesty Bill, which would offer amnesty to protesters charged with crimes related to the 2010 protests.
She said that her family has endured financial difficulty during Mr. Panupong′s 2-year imprisonment because he was the main breadwinner of the family. Even though Mr. Panupong has been temporarily released from jail, her family still suffers because no one would hire Mr. Panupong due to his criminal charges, according to Ms. Bang-orn.
Ms. Bangorn also asked people to be kind enough to give her son a job, as she needs to take care of her grandson and a mentally disabled son.
She told our correspondent that she agrees with the Amnesty Bill, believing that it will bring peace to the country. "Please stop protesting the Bill and think of the country," Ms. Bang-orn said.
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