Another Inquest Suggests Army Roles In Redshirts Deaths

A soldier captured by the Redshirts was forced to look at the bodies of dead protesters on the Redshirt stage, just hours after the clashes on the night of 10 April 2010.

BANGKOK – The South Bangkok Criminal Court has ruled that two Redshirts protesters were killed by gunfire from the direction of the military during clashes between the protesters and troops in 2010.

Jaroon Chaiman and Siam Wattananukul and nearly 100 others died in political violence between April-May 2010 during the government's attempts to disperse Redshirt protesters in Bangkok. The pair was killed on the night of 10 April 2010, when then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered the troops to dislodge Redshirts from their encampment in Ratchadumnoen Avenue.

The protesters had been demanding Abhisit dissolve the Parliament and organize a new election, arguing that Abhisit′s ascension to power was undemocratic as his party had not won the general election.

The military operation on 10 April 2010 was called off as night fell and mysterious militants fired at soldiers, leading to an escalation of the violence. More than 20 people, mostly civilians, died in the clashes, including a Japanese journalist working for Reuters. The Redshirts accused the military of killing the mostly unarmed protesters, while the authorities blamed the shadowy militants for the deaths.

In a lengthy reading yesterday morning, judges cited testimony gathered from a number of witnesses, who said that Jaroon and Siam were seen running after soldiers who were retreating from grenade attacks launched in front of Satri Witthaya School, just opposite Democracy Monument.

The judges said the soldiers, who were rallying near Wan Chart Bridge, fired their weapons toward the oncoming protesters. Jaroon and Siam suddenly fell down in front of Satri Witthaya School, the judges said, citing witnesses' accounts.

The pair was taken to the hospital by rescue volunteers, where they were pronounced dead. 

According to autopsy reports presented to the court, residue of lead and other metals found on the bodies of the two victims point to the trace of 5.56 bullets, the type of ammunition used by the military during the clashes.

The autopsy also suggested that the victims were shot from the direction of the soldiers at the time, the judges said in their statement. 

The court added that the accounts of the witnesses, which include a journalist and a volunteer medic, were reliable in their impartiality. 

Therefore, the court concluded that  Jaroon and Siam were killed by the gunfire from the military direction, but said there was not sufficient evidence to determine who committed the manslaughter. 

In previous court inquests, military gunfire was also determined to be the cause of civilian deaths, such as the Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi, a 14-year old orphan named Kunagorn Srisuwan, a pair of volunteer medics who were taking shelter in a temple on the final day of the military crackdown, and a military private reportedly killed in friendly fire.

No court inquest has explicitly blamed shadowy 'Blackshirt' militants for casualties of the crackdown, contrary to the claims of the Abhisit administration and the military.

After the inquest was read, Siam's sister Boonnam Taviang told reporters in the courtroom she was "very happy" to receive "justice."

"I was there, I saw the soldiers with guns," Boonnam said. "But the protesters were unarmed. My brother was just holding an empty water bottle."

She said those responsible for the crackdown should be punished by the laws. Even though she had received 7 million baht in  compensation for her brother′s death, she said, it did not satisfy her because "hundreds of millions of baht cannot replace my brother's life."

Speaking in front of the court, Jaroon's wife, Nangnuan Chaiman, also called for holding Thai authorities legally accountable for killing her husband and other protesters. 

"I want [the culprits] to have some humanity. I want them to imagine what it feels like to have lost someone, to endure life without  loved ones," Nangnuang said.

She said it pained her to be accused of enjoying the compensation money issued by the government. "I don't want the money. I want my husband to come back … we went to the protests because we knew the Redshirts were not villains. We simply wanted democracy to be restored in our country". 

 

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