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Armed men in black seen on both sides

Protesters, police say assailants shot at them on Tuesday



INJURED protesters and police have both said they saw armed men dressed in black mingling among opposing sides during the deadly clash at Phan Fah Bridge on Tuesday.

Five people were killed and 69 injured in the bloody melee.

Forensic police have been investigating the scene where a grenade was mysteriously thrown at police during the operation to recover roads from protest sites at the bridge. This was carried out after an order from the caretaker government's Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order.

Dhamma Army security guard Krisada Penchamra, 35, said he was shot while trying to use iron fences and tyres to build a barricade to protect protesters from objects being thrown at them. He was shot in the chest, arms and legs, and is awaiting surgery to have the bullets removed.

"I was shot while I was about to turn my back against the company of police. So I was quite sure about the trajectory of the bullets," he said. Krisada travelled from Songkhla to join the protests to overthrow the government. He has been in the capital since December 20.

On Tuesday, he was instructed to take care of protesters and stop them from getting into clashes with police.

The clash between police and protesters started around 10am when police used a tractor to destroy sandbags which formed a temporary wall.

Krisada said that once police saw the number of protesters was increasing, after another group of protesters from the Student and People's Network for Thailand's Reform joined in, they started firing tear gas. At around noon, a mysterious grenade was thrown at police at the bridge, he said.

"After the explosion, I saw two police holding M16 rifles and they jumped into the area under the bridge," Krisada said. "A few minutes later, I heard the sound of gunshots from that area."

Kitti Seubbukaew, 41, said he was shot in his left leg while leaning against a wall on Rajdamnoen Avenue.

On Tuesday, he travelled from Wat Prasri Mahathat Worawihan to join the demonstration at the Rajdamnoen rally site.

"The moment when I was shot it was like thunder. It was a storm," he said.

"I just heard the sound. At that time, I did not think that I was shot. I thought a person standing beside me was shot. But when I turned my head to the left side, unfortunately it was me."

He said he heard police announce that they would shoot protesters who moved on them.

Chon Buri resident Suraphon Wanichtat, 57, was shot in the right side.

He said he saw a group of men wearing black suits among police under the bridge near the Queen's Gallery.

"They were wearing black suits and walking with the police but they did not have police written on their suits," he said.

Police Sergeant Chaowalit Ritmongsoongnoen, whose right arm was injured by the grenade explosion, said he saw three men wearing black dresses and knitted wool hats walking among protesters and hiding under tamarind trees. They were also holding guns.

"These men in black had appeared from the Nang Lerng intersection," he said.

Chaowalit said the men in black Suraphon saw, under the bridge, were riot control police.

He said protesters threw tear gas at police first and it was a different type to what police used.

Police Corporal Witoon Suwansri, who was also injured by the explosion, claimed he also saw men in black hiding among protesters. He said they appeared after two M79 grenades were thrown at police.

Witoon said that even though he was instructed to disperse protesters, they were Thai like his relatives.


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