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Keeper shot dead at zoo believed a victim of political violence

Slain late Saturday by gunman firing into zoo, which houses Army camp

Mana Arjran, a Dusit Zoo employee, was shot dead at 11pm of the Saturday night, believed to be a casualty of political violence that has claimed over 20 lives so far.

"He was shot in the head and many bullets were found in the trees around the place where his body was found. All staffs are terrified, but we don't know what to do. To our disappointment, the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation has not yet recognised that Mana is one of the victims, and this leaves him out of any available state assistance," said the Zoological Park Organisation director Sophon Damnui.

 If he is recognised as a clash victim, he will be the first innocent as the list of 23 deaths are either soldiers or the red shirt demonstrators.

 According to preliminary investigation by the zoo, a few gun shots briefly erupted outside the zoo near the parliament exit. Then, sound of a machine gun exploded inside the zoo, after the screeching of a pickup outside, according to the recollection of Mana's buddy. Now, staff are working in pair to watch over each other.

 Mana, 21, was one of about 20 employees on night duty, who completed his shift at the time. He just completed the night feed to rare turtles and left the cage to stamp his work ballot at the machine, near the parking space and a temporary military camp. His buddy remained in the cage, nearby, and found the dead body about 200 metres away.

 Like it has always been, the zoo is now a temporary military camp, where soldiers are stationed for duty in the inner Rattanakosin area.

 The zoo promptly reported the death to the Dusit Police Station and the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation as well as the Vajira Hospital's casualty centre. Today, the zoo will notify the death to the Royal Household Bureau, which is extending His Majesty the King's assistance to all victims.

 The body was sent to the Ramathibodi Hospital for autopsy and now it is stored at Sukhanthawas Temple, waiting for incineration after the cause of death is available.

 "If there is no acknowledgement at all, we may reconsider our decision to allow the establishment of the military camp here. It's necessary that we have to protect all employees. We follow the government's order (in providing the base). Now, the staff does not want to take night shift," he said.

 In a separate interview, Bangkok Erawan Centre Dr.Pongphet Kamjornkitjakarn said Mana appeared on the fatality list, but the cause of death is pending the Dusit Police Station's investigation.

 A source at the centre noted that the identification process is quite complicated. Among casualties believed to be the red-shirt demonstrators were soldiers in disguise. For a reason, they were identified as protesters. Meanwhile, some protesters do not carry the identification cards.

 Pol Lt Col Tinnakorn Somwandee, deputy chief of the Dusit Police Station as chief of the investigation, said the investigation is underway but the result is not available now as more witnesses are to be interrogated.

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