Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thailand: Court Ruling Holds Thai Military Responsible for Death of Italian Photo-Journalist

According to Reuters, Fabio Polenghi, 48, an Italian photo-journalist who was shot dead in Bangkok while taking pictures of a military crackdown on an anti-government protest on May 19, 2010, was killed by a bullet fired by a soldier, a Thai court ruled earlier today (May 29).
Polenghi was shot and killed when troops moved in to disperse "red shirt" supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, 63, who had been camped in the center of the capital for weeks, demanding an early election.

"The court ruled that orders given by Prime Minister Abhisit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep that day led to the journalist's death," Karom Ponthaklang, a lawyer for the journalist's family, told reporters. 

Karom added that he would ask the Department of Special Investigations, part of the Justice Ministry, to press charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban. Abhisit is now leader of the opposition and the government is led by Thaksin's sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 45, who won an election in July 2011.

The ruling could spell further trouble for Abhisit and Suthep, who were charged last year with giving orders to use live ammunition that led to civilian deaths and have a number of similar cases pending against them. If found guilty, they could face the death penalty or life in prison. Abhisit has defended his order to use live ammunition, saying the protesters' refusal to negotiate had left his government with few options.

COMMENT: More than 90 people, including two journalists and members of the security forces, died during the two months of unrest in Bangkok. Reuters cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto, 43, was also killed by a high velocity bullet to his chest during clashes between government troops and protesters on April 10, 2010.

All travelers to Thailand should AVOID all public demonstrations that require police or military action, as rarely do Thai security forces exercise non-lethal force.

All journalists covering public demonstrations that have the potential for violence should ensure that they are equipped with ballistic resistant vests and helmets. Otherwise, they are at risk of being seriously injured or killed.