Six killed by Thai soldiers during 2010 crackdown on protests, inquest finds

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Six unarmed people killed at a Buddhist temple during the military crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bangkok three years ago were hit by bullets fired by Thai soldiers, an inquest has found.

The inquest at the Bangkok south criminal court on Tuesday said four men and one woman, mostly Red Shirt protesters who took refuge in Pathum Wanaram temple near the protest site, were killed by high-velocity bullets from the Thai army soldiers who were on the city’s elevated train tracks, while another man was shot by soldiers from the ground.

The findings are a stark reminder of a bloody battle between the demonstrators and the government under the then prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Red Shirts, consisting mostly of supporters of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-establishment protesters, called for parliament to be dissolved and fresh elections to be held.

The findings come as protest groups gathered in the Thai capital to oppose a bill that would grant amnesty to protesters who have been involved in political demonstrations since the 2006 military coup that ousted Thaksin for alleged corruption and disrespect to the monarchy.

About 90 people were killed in 2010 when the demonstrators occupied central Bangkok for nine weeks before they dispersed during an army crackdown.

The inquest dismissed claims by a soldier that there was an unidentified armed group near the temple when the shootings happened, saying there was not enough evidence. It also said the six people were not using any weapons when they were killed.

Abhisit’s government approved the use of live ammunition under limited conditions and deployed snipers during the demonstration.

Nattapat Akkahad, the brother of one of the victims, Kamonkade Akkahad, a volunteer nurse, said he was happy about the ruling and called for the soldier responsible to be prosecuted.

“I’m so glad that I don’t know what to say. This just confirms our stance that no amnesty should be granted to state’s security officers who acted beyond what was necessary,” he said. “The soldiers must be held accountable.”

Relatives of the others said they were content with the detailed findings and also called for those responsible to face prosecution.

The inquest said it was unknown who fired the bullets but said the security forces came from a ranger battalion and an infantry battalion of the Royal Thai army.

Thai authorities have a long history of shielding military staff from prosecutions.

This week, protest groups gathered in Bangkok to pressure lawmakers to withdraw the bill that was proposed by the ruling Pheu Thai party, fearing it could pave the way for Thaksin’s return.

Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail on a conflict of interest charge in 2008, but escaped punishment by living abroad in self-imposed exile.

The findings were the latest in a series of inquests since the demonstration took place three years ago. In previous cases, the court ruled that five people were killed by guns used by military personnel, an Italian photographer killed by bullets that was fired from the direction of security forces, while two inquests were inconclusive on who committed the killings.

Abhisit gave testimony on Tuesday in a hearing of the inquest of Hiroyuki Muramoto, a Reuters Japanese cameraman who was shot dead on 10 April 2010, during the first crackdown on protesters.

Lawyers will give the inquest results to investigators to be used in a criminal prosecution.

The department of special investigation began a murder inquiry of Abhisit and his then deputy Suthep Thaugsuban last year, but charges have not been brought.



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