(19 February) In one of the most iconic and widely shared videos of the clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters in Bangkok yesterday, a group of policemen were huddling together with their shields up, facing the demonstrators.
Suddenly, a grenade was suddenly thrown at one of the shields held by a policeman. It took several heartbeats for the police officer to realise what hit his shield. Then he decided to lift the shield up and tried to kick the grenade away.
But too late. The grenade exploded, and the whole group of police officers disappeared from the frame in the smoke from the blast. Viewers were left to guess what happened to the officer who attempted to kick the explosive.
Many commentators on the social network also expressed their admiration to the cop for his apparent attempt to save his fellow officers from the blast.
The video was first shared by a BBC correspondent in Bangkok, Mr. Jonathan Head, and its still-images later made it to headlines of several newspapers in Thailand.
Today, it emerged that the "sidekick cop" or "grenade kicker hero" – as nicknamed by Netizens – is still alive and making good recovery at Police Hospital.
The policeman was identified as Pol.Sen.Sgt.Maj. Teeradet Ui-Charoen. Medical workers said he suffered severe legs injuries from the grenade blast, but the wounds fortunately did not need amputation.
Ms. Jeerapa Lek-khu, the wife of the 44-year old policeman, said she was saddened by the incident and worried that the wounds might be infected in the future.
According to Ms. Jeerapa, Pol.Sen.Sgt.Maj. Teeradet told her that he was ordering his friend to place a shield next to him when the grenade was thrown at the team, so he decided to kick it away.
"He decided to do that because he loves his friends a lot," Ms. Jeerapa said, "I′ve been with him for a long time. I know how much he loves his friends".
However, she added, "But I don′t want my husband to be a hero. I just want his legs to be normal again".
Several police officers admitted that the appropriate response was in fact to stay low on the ground 3 metres away from the grenade. The riot shield alone cannot prevent damage from the blast neither, as the officer behind the shield could still risk suffering damages from the shrapnel, the officers said.
The police believed the grenade to be an M67 type. Both the police force and the military are known to possess the grenades.
Pol.Sen.Sgt.Maj. Thammanoon Tas-see, who also suffered left leg and right cheek injuries from the grenade blast, was later transported to Police Hospital today for his treatment.
Medical workers described his condition as severe.
Pol.Lt.Gen. Narongsak Saowakhon, deputy director of Police Hospital told our correspondent that Pol.Sen.Sgt.Maj. Teeradet’s left arm and his two legs including his toes are broken severely, while Pol Sen.Sgt.Maj. Thammanoon suffered broken leg, and broken facial bone from the explosion.
The medical team had tried to cohere the bones together, and will need to closely observe their conditions to make sure the wounds are kept disinfected, the deputy director said, adding that it is still unclear whether Teeradet would be able to walk normally again.
However, the most severely injured policeman is identified as Pol Sen Sgt Maj Thammanoon Chapanya, who was reportedly shot on his occipital bone.
Pol.Lt.Gen Narongsak said the officer is staying in Intensive Care Unit and has not regained his consciousness. The doctors have placed him under cardiac stimulants and closely monitor him 24-hour.