Deaths from stray bullets 'shock' group
After two years, the People's Information Centre (PIC), a group of activists and academics who seek to end state impunity in relation to the 2010 crackdown on red-shirt protesters, is releasing its report, titled "Truth for Justice: Events and Impact on the Dispersal of Protests in April-May 2010". The group claims there were 94 deaths from all sides. Pravit Rojanaphruk talks to PIC coordinator and co-editor of the report, Puangthong Pawakapan, about what they discovered. Excerpts:What did you discover that might change the way society looks at the incidents?
I was rather shocked by the many 'stray' deaths, of those who had nothing to do with the protests but were hit by stray bullets.
Many think that death and violence occurred after the burning of buildings [on May 19], but we discovered that military operations began from May 14 onwards, and on that day, 11 persons in Bon Kai, Lumpini Park and Rajprarop Road areas were killed. A senior military officer with the pen name Hua-na Kuang wrote in an Army journal [in 2010] about the 'success' of the military operation that it is credited to the use of live bullets against protesters. This is likely the reason why many were hit by stray bullets.
As for the so-called 'men in black', there is no clarity as to who they were and even the [Abhisit Vejjajiva] government has failed to trace them. Also, deaths and injuries occurred on the afternoon of April 10, , before the claim by the Abhisit administration and the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) that it occurred in the evening [after clashing with 'men in black'].
The [Abhisit] government says those who died were terrorists but in the evidence we gathered, we discover no traces of gunpowder on the hands of any of those killed.
What about the deployment of Army snipers?
There are so many video clips on the Internet showing many soldiers using telescopic guns. This explains why almost 30 per cent of the deaths resulted from bullet wounds on their heads. And if combined with another 22 per cent who died from gunshot wounds on the chest, the figure is above 50 per cent. This is no shooting for self-defence [as claimed by the Abhisit government].
Who do you think ought to be responsible for all these deaths?
The mastermind, the head of the government, the one who gave orders at the CRES and the person/s who came up with Army strategy. It is the responsibility of those who employed military means to disperse the protest and failed to control it.
Your group is regarded as sympathetic to red-shirt demonstrators. Would this not affect the credibility of your findings?
We are not surprised by the accusation. But what we want society to consider is the information we are presenting, and in many cases point to the excessive use of force and not in line with what the government or CRES claimed.
Even if you have all the military might and the law, you have no right to violate the right to life of protesters who had no lethal weapons and fought against the government. None of those maimed or killed appeared to carry lethal weapons.
You are also pessimistic about two other fact-finding reports soon to be released by the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Why?
The TRCT is still confused between the issue of finding the truth and reconciliation. It appears that they fear that the truth may hinder reconciliation. As for the NHRC, we hope that it will apply human rights principles equally on both sides and not use human rights principle to defend the [Abhisit] government's use of indiscriminate force.
Also, while many protesters have been detained before verdicts were given, and some have been acquitted, the trial of Abhisit [and his people] has yet to begin. Not even one.
It seems that different groups in Thai society already have their own conclusions as to what happened in 2010.
We do not expect society to change their conclusion. Whether the information we gathered will be beneficial or not will depend on political change in the future. Then the culprits will be punished.
Are you not confident that state impunity will end?
I have no confidence. But we can't just sit idly and do nothing. We hope that if we do not accept [state impunity] then it will be shaken. What we are doing is to challenge the culture of impunity.