2010 Political Violence
Court unable to conclude who killed zoo official in 2010
The Criminal Court's inquest into whether a Dusit Zoo official was killed by a soldier or a red-shirt protester in 2010 came to an inconclusive end yesterday.The court ruled that public prosecutors had failed to provide enough evidence to establish the direction from which the bullet that killed Mana Artran, 24, came.
Mana is the sixth victim whose death the Criminal Court has ordered an investigation into. The court was also inconclusive over the death of the fifth victim, Boonmee Rermsuk, 70, saying it could not be established which side the fatal bullet came from as he was caught in a crossfire between troops and protesters.
However, for the first four victims - Phan Khamkong, Charnnarong Polsrial, Chartchai Chalao and Kunakorn Srisuwan - the court ruled that the bullets killing them came from the soldiers.
Mana was killed inside the zoo's premises on April 10, 2010, when troops were deployed to crackdown on red-shirt protesters on Rajdamnoen Road and Khok Wua Intersection.
The court was told that while Mana was leaving the zoo after completing his shift at 11pm, gunfire was heard from the parking lot and his friend, Boonmee Kaewsaithuam, found him lying dead.
Boonmee testified that he took cover and heard the gunfire continue for about 20 minutes. Later, two bullet shells were found about 25 metres away from the body, as were shirts and batons of soldiers. During the inquest, the court was told that 150 members of the Air Defence Artillery Battalion from Fort Suranaree had been deployed to provide security at the zoo and Parliament. When gunfire was heard from the Parliament's side, someone was heard shouting "they have come" and troops were seen ducking, the court heard.
The court ruled that public prosecutors had no witnesses to confirm who exactly shot Mana. Public prosecutors only presented an account from a security officer from the zoo saying that he saw troops firing in the air. However, the court ruled that the spot where the troops were firing in the air was different from where Mana was killed.
Moreover, troops also told Boonmee to duck down without showing any intimidation, hence the court said if soldiers had shot Mana they would have shot his friend as well.
The court said traces found on trees indicated that bullets came from different directions and proved that there were people other than the troops in the zoo at the time of shooting.
The court said a ballistics test by police could only tell that the bullet had entered the back of Mana's head, but it could not confirm whether the bullet came from the direction where the troops were stationed. The court said that the two spent shells found near Mana's body did not match any of the 29 types of guns used by the troops that day.
As a result, the court ruled that Mana was killed by a high-velocity bullet from an indeterminate direction. Mana's family was not present at court yesterday.