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Thailand: Erratic investigation yields “utterly unsatisfactory” findings

Thai anti-government red shirt protesters carry banners and cartoons of government officials as they gather in front of Japanese embassy in Bangkok December 13, 2010. Anti-government protesters gathered in front of the Japanese embassy to hand over what they said is evidence relating to the death of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national who was killed by a high-velocity bullet wound to the chest while covering protests in Bangkok's old quarter on April 10, 2010.

The findings from the official investigation into Japanese cameraman Hiro Muramoto’s death during clashes between government forces and anti-government “Red Shirts” in Bangkok on April 10, 2010 are being seen as “utterly unsatisfactory.”

The provisional conclusion one year after the event that the security forces did not fire the shot that killed Muramoto, who worked for Reuters, betrays a reluctance to shed light on the circumstances of his death and identify those responsible, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. There have been several U-turns in the investigation. After initially suggesting that a soldier may have fired the shot, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said at the end of February that it had ruled out that possibility.

DSI director-general Tharit Pengdith’s announcement Thursday that “we have to conclude for now that the government forces did not kill Muramoto until there is new evidence to say otherwise” is far from conclusive, just as his promise to accept any new evidence and continue searching for Muramoto’s killer is far from reassuring.

In RSF’s view, the authorities have gradually and subtly suppressed the investigation although the foreign ministry had originally insisted that the commission created to investigate the violence would be independent. “Regardless of the investigation’s findings, the government will assume its responsibility,” foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi told RSF in June 2010 (see the “Thailand: Licence to kill” report.

The violence between the army and government opponents began in March 2010, when thousands of “Red Shirt” supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra – the prime minister ousted in a coup in September 2006 – invaded Bangkok and demanded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s resignation and new elections.

RSF concluded in its report that the behaviour of both the army and the Red Shirt militias constituted a flagrant violation of the UNESCO Medellin Declaration on the obligation to protect journalists in war zones. Another journalist, Italian freelance photographer Fabio Polenghi, was killed during clashes on May 19, 2010. The circumstance of his death have never been clarified either. In all, around 90 people were killed in the course of the clashes of April and May 2010.

Date posted: March 25, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 75