Sister of Italian journalist slain in 2010 seeks truth, not revenge
Elisabetta Polenghi, the sister of slain Italian cameraman Fabio Polenghi, has made about 10 trips to Bangkok since mid-2010, although she's lost count of the exact number. But when it comes to the details of how her older brother was killed on the morning of May 19, 2010 near Ratchaprasong Intersection, she is obsessive, even pedantic at times.Although the results of the Criminal Court's inquest into her brother's death will not be released until May 29, Polenghi, given all the evidence and witness testimony, believes Fabio was killed by a Thai Army sniper.
"I don't want to tell you they targeted Fabio. But probably, probably [the soldiers] were scared. They wanted people to flee, to clear the street. When you put the Army to clear out civilians on the street, you put people trained for war. When you put the Army, you want to kill. When you put an Army on the ground, something is wrong with the political culture," said Polenghi, before adding that her brother, whose interest in photography she sparked, was shot in the heart from behind.
"One shot in the heart. One shot through the heart," she said, adding that this partly explains her conclusion that her brother wasn't the victim of a random bullet, but of a single shot aimed by a sniper. She added that when men nearby tried to rescue her brother, shots were fired to scare them away.
The 48-year-old Milanese fashion photographer has studied all the videos and other details, all the evidence and witness reports she could find. The portly, grey-haired woman - who confesses to having watched the three videos of the incident hundreds of times - at times resorts to placing one pair of reading glasses over another to get a clearer view. Such is the pre-occupation that has driven to her to pursue the truth about her brother's death.
She even sold her large studio in Milan in favour of a smaller one in order to raise the necessary cash.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was prime minister at the time the Army was ordered onto the streets, has never invited Polenghi to see him or to express his condolences - something that obviously disappoints her.
"If I were him, I would never have sent the Army onto the streets," she said of Abhisit.
But vengeful she is not.
"I would like Fabio's death to be something that changes the [Thai] system. I don't even want to know the name of the man who killed my brother… I don't like someone to be killed because he killed my brother. I [would] just like Thailand to be more responsible and care about life. My success would be the respect of life - a kind of reform."
Reform of the Army's culture and the use of anti-riot police instead of the deployment of Army troops who are trained to kill are things Polenghi hopes for.
"I am sorry for the soldiers. Some of them have been killed as well [in 2010]. But how can I help and change the culture of the Army to be more responsible for life? No one should be killed."
In 2010 Polenghi knew and cared very little about Thailand, but after nearly three years of travels to and traumatic travails in Thailand, today Polenghi says she loves Thailand and has learned quite a lot. "I'm actually in love with Thailand."
Her mother thinks differently, and questions how her daughter can have any goodwill towards a country in which her son met his end.
"Believe me. I don't fight to have revenge. Inside the Army, there are people who would like to change. I know that Fabio died for that idea."
But despite all the forgiveness and magnanimous words, Polenghi is still in sorrow, nearly three years on. She broke into tears as she showed me the videos of the last moments of her brother's life. But I detected no air of vengeance emanating from her at all. Just sadness for a life cut short due to political mayhem in a faraway foreign land - and concern for Thailand.
And today, on the profile of her Twitter account, Polenghi refers to herself as a human-rights activist as well as a photographer.