Rescue teams bemoan soldiers' lack of trust

Medics and rescue teams claimed yesterday that the biggest obstacle they faced when trying to tend to victims between May 14 to 19 was soldiers.

Dr Pichit Siriwan, deputy director of Thai Red Cross Society's Relief and Community Health Bureau, said his team had a lot of trouble with uncooperative troops stationed around the main red-shirt rally site in the Rajprasong area when they tried to pick up people injured in the skirmishes.

No soldiers or security officers at military checkpoints were allowing paramedics to enter the clash zones to help injured people, he said.

"It was very difficult for us to enter the areas. We had to call several people, including high-level military officers, to let us through," he said. "Cooperation from the military was key to us helping the injured."

According to the National Institute of Emergency Medical Service, the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation's operation from May 14-19 to reclaim the Rajprasong rally site left 467 people injured and 56 dead, two of whom were paramedics.

From the start of the red-shirt protest in mid-March, 88 people were killed and 1,885 injured. Phranangklao Hospital director Dr Thawatchai Wongkong-sawasdi said the key problem was the lack of a communication system.

"There was no mobile-phone signal, and we had to resort to using walkie-talkies to contact each other," he said. In addition, wearing a paramedic's uniform did little to protect them. He said he even advised his rescue team not to use motorcycles inside dangerous zones, as that would put them at more risk.

Nanthana Metprasarn of the Erawan Emergency Medical Centre said paramedics and rescue teams took no sides and that their only job was helping victims. She said her team could not tend to gunshot victims inside Pathum Wanaram Temple because they were stopped at the gate and questioned about their political stance.

"Both of them [the troops and protesters] thought we were on the other side. This was a big problem when it came to helping the injured," she said.

Dr Thangdan Pisalphong, of King Mongkut Hospital, said all sides should ensure the security of the rescue teams. He said when his team arrived to pick up a body they found a bomb next to the corpse.

Dr Chatbin Jintanasilapin, of Vachira Hospital, said it was also very important for rescue teams to recruit professional people for work like this. He said some volunteers had no experience of working in crisis situations like this, so they panicked and were unable to do their job.

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