A Change of Guard

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

[Thai] Military admits firing at reds

Only single shots fired to minimise casualties

Published: 15/04/2010
Bangkok Post

Some soldiers fired live rounds at red shirt demonstrators to provide cover for injured comrades as they were retreating during Saturday's clashes, a spokesman for the Centre for Public Administration in Emergency Situations says.

Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yestersday the soldiers had no choice but to open fire at terrorists hiding among demonstrators to protect their colleagues. They were ready to testify before the committee investigating the clashes.

The CPAES released its comments as public suspicions grow over the use of violence by government forces during the April 10 violence. Video footage, including news coverage by foreign media outlets, shows pictures of soldiers firing automatic guns in the direction of red shirt protesters.

Col Sansern told a news conference yesterday soldiers only fired live rounds for two reasons. First, they fired into the air to intimidate demonstrators, and then at advancing crowds to protect the lives of wounded comrades. They fired only one bullet at a time and did not switch to fully automatic to avoid causing more casualties, he said.

The CPAES showed reporters five video clips of Saturday's clashes. One of the clips showed soldiers firing at demonstrators. According to Col Sansern, the soldiers were protecting the injured as they were retreating from the area.

In another clip, a red shirt demonstrator was shot in the head from behind. Col Sansern said judging from the direction, it meant the man was not shot by a soldier.

Other clips include the accounts of red shirt protesters saying they saw a man wearing a blue shirt firing some kind of explosive from a rooftop of a building; another red shirt protester asks, ''Has Seh Daeng [Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol] come to help us?''; and footage of red shirt protesters attacking authorities and blocking a vehicle carrying the injured to hospital.

Col Sansern said judging from the five video clips he did not believe red shirt leaders were unaware there was a group of terrorists among the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Maj Gen Khattiya, an army specialist who supports the red shirts, claimed armed militants he called ''Ronin warriors'' fired weapons at soldiers after soldiers fired M16 rifles at red shirt demonstrators first.

He said he believed those firing the M16 rifles were army snipers. They fired from the rooftops of high buildings in the area.

''Ronin warriors'', originally called ''King Taksin's warriors'' when set up by the red shirt movement after the 2006 coup, were trained by Seh Daeng until he stopped when ordered by the army.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Emergency Medical Service's Erawan Centre yesterday confirmed two more deaths from the April 10 clash, bringing the number of fatalities to 23. The two latest victims are Pvt Anupol Hommalee, 29, and Napaton Paopanas, a 30-year-old civilian.

Pvt Anupol succumbed to shrapnel wounds to his head, while Napaton died from a gunshot wound to his abdomen.

The centre reported 195 injured civilians and soldiers are still in hospital, with 14 in a serious condition.

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