Suthep: Men in black, not troops, started shooting

national August 29, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban has told the Department of Special Investigation that troops were not responsible for starting the shooting at red-shirt protesters on April 10, 2010.

Speaking to reporters late on Monday night after being questioned by DSI investigators for about ten hours, Suthep said the investigators showed him a YouTube clip which they claimed was recorded during the day on April 10. The clip showed what was purported to be troops firing at red-shirt protesters with M16 and Tavor assault rifles.

Suthep said he told the DSI investigators he had not seen the clip or learned of the particular shooting incident. The security operation on that day was being closely watched by newspapers and TV reporters.
Suthep said the troops tried to reclaim traffic space from the protesters without firing at or killing anybody. He testified to the DSI investigators that the shooting happened on the night of April 10 and was started by the so-called “men in black”. As a result, he declined to sign his name to endorse the DSI investigators’ document that troops allegedly fired at the protesters during the day.
The former Democrat secretary-general said DSI investigators spent about ten hours questioning him about what happened on April 10 and various other incidents in May 2010. He said he allowed the investigators to interrogate him non-stop although he had not had dinner.
Suthep said the investigators asked him about orders issued for the troops to carry out. He gave them copies of all the orders he had signed as director of the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES). Suthep also told investigators that DSI chief Tharit Pengdit was the one who suggested the CRES announce a state of emergency.
Suthep told DSI investigators the department had complied with the UN treaty when it announced the state of emergency, and the Office of the Attorney General and senior government officials knew about every step of the CRES operations. Suthep said the emergency announcement was also influenced by the fact that protesters used weapons in the demonstrations.
“Investigators asked me if former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stepped in to give orders to the CRES or not, and I replied that the former prime minister had a lot of [responsibilities] so he gave only policy-level orders. I, as the CRES director, considered which action was needed for the situation at the particular moment,” Suthep said.
 “For example, for the operation to reclaim traffic space on Rajdamnoen Road, I asked Abhisit if he wanted me to clear the entire road. He replied that he wanted only to open the road for vehicles on Rama VIII Bridge – so I decided to order the operation to clear the road at the Chor Por Ror Intersection and the protesters were allowed to continue their rally on Rajdamnoen Nok and Rajdamnoen Klang roads.”
Suthep also told investigators the CRES initially did not plan to disperse protesters from Rajprasong Intersection on May 19. The troops were deployed only to clear Lumpini Park, but troops were fired at by armed fighters among the protesters.
Suthep said the investigators asked him if Abhisit took part in any operation of the CRES. He replied that the former premier was mostly briefed by officials on the situation as it developed and tried to find measures to solve the crisis. Suthep said Abhisit led a team of negotiators to talk to red-shirt leaders and briefed the public on the current situation – but the former prime minister did not get involved in the operations.
Suthep said when he played video clips of men identified as men in black to the investigators, they asked him why the authorities failed to arrest any of these men.
“I replied that ‘you asked me as if red-shirt people wrote the question for you’. I told them there were men in black [present] and the DSI had already filed charges against them in court,” Suthep said.
Suthep added that it was possible that when the men in black were killed during gunfights with troops, their peers would take away their guns before sending the bodies to hospitals.
Suthep said the DSI had charged 26 suspects in the terrorism case and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and red-shirt leaders were among the suspects. He said several suspects admitted they had been trained to use weapons abroad and they belonged to a so-called Taksin warriors’ group. He said some of them fired Tavor rifles at the Dusit Thani Hotel and M79 grenades at various other places and their crimes were already described in DSI reports.
“I was not sorry because I expected that one day I would encounter this kind of situation,” Suthep said.
He said he told the DSI investigators he had pushed for new positions for the department’s investigators when he was a deputy prime minister because he hoped their agency would work for justice.
Suthep said he still had faith in Dr Kanit na Nakorn’s Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand and that it would reveal the truth to the public in the future.