In a surprising U-turn, Department of Special Investigation chief Tharit Pengdit told Agence France Presse on 17 September that the army was responsible for the fatal shooting of Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto during clashes between government forces and “Red Shirt” protesters in Bangkok on 10 April 2010.
The DSI previously reported on 24 March that forensic tests had established that the round that killed Muramoto, who worked for Reuters, came from a type of gun that the army had not been using that day.
The shift in position came one day after Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung relieved the DSI of responsibility for the special enquiry into the deaths of 13 civilians, including Muramoto, during the clashes in April and May 2010.
Accusing the DSI of being ineffective, Chalerm has put the Bangkok police in charge of the investigation.
Italian freelance photographer Fabio Polenghi was also killed while covering the “Red Shirt” protests on 19 May 2010. Read the Reporters Without Borders report on violence against the media in Bangkok in 2010
14.04.2011 - Attempt to transfer burden of investigating cameraman’s death on to Reuters
Reporters Without Borders deplores Department of Special Investigation director-general Tharit Pengdit’s suggestion that the investigation into Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto’s death could be "delegated" to his employer, the Reuters news agency.
“By doing this, any witness to the crime might be daring enough to provide tip-offs to Reuters more than they would to the state officials,” Tharit said after meeting with two of the British news agency’s representatives on 11 April to discuss the investigation.
Muramoto was shot dead during clashes between government forces and anti-government “Red Shirts” in Bangkok on 10 April 2010.
“The DSI’s proposal shows that the Thai government is refusing to identify those who were responsible for Muramoto’s death,” Reporters Without Borders said. “A government that respects the rule of law has an obligation to establish the truth and to ensure that justice is done.”
Reporters Without Borders recognizes the importance of cooperation between Reuters and the authorities in charge of the investigation but cannot accept any attempt by the DSI to offload its responsibility.
Reuters has not issued any statement about its meeting with Tharit almost exactly one year after Muramoto’s death. Although a year has gone by, the authorities still have not said who killed the cameraman.
Erratic investigation yields “utterly unsatisfactory” findings
Reporters Without Borders regards the findings from the official investigation into Japanese cameraman Hiro Muramoto’s death during clashes between government forces and anti-government “Red Shirts” in Bangkok on 10 April 2010 as “utterly unsatisfactory.”
The provisional conclusion one year after the event that the security forces did not fire the shot that killed Muramoto, who worked for Reuters, betrays a reluctance to shed light on the circumstances of his death and identify those responsible, Reporters Without Borders said.
There have been several U-turns in the investigation. After initially suggesting that a soldier may have fired the shot, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said at the end of February that it had ruled out that possibility.
DSI director-general Tharit Pengdith’s announcement yesterday that “we have to conclude for now that the government forces did not kill Mr. Muramoto until there is new evidence to say otherwise” is far from conclusive, just as his promise to accept any new evidence and continue searching for Muramoto’s killer is far from reassuring.
In Reporters Without Borders’ view, the authorities have gradually and subtly suppressed the investigation although the foreign ministry had originally insisted that the commission created to investigate the violence would be independent.
“Regardless of the investigation’s findings, the government will assume its responsibility,” foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi told Reporters Without Borders in June 2010 (see the “Thailand: Licence to kill” report: http://en.rsf.org/thailand-report-on-violence-against-media-08-07-2010,3...).
The violence between the army and government opponents began in March 2010, when thousands of “Red Shirt” supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra – the prime minister ousted in a coup in September 2006 – invaded Bangkok and demanded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s resignation and new elections.
Reporters Without Borders concluded in its report that the behaviour of both the army and the Red Shirt militias constituted a flagrant violation of the UNESCO Medellin Declaration on the obligation to protect journalists in war zones.
Another journalist, Italian freelance photographer Fabio Polenghi, was killed during clashes on 19 May 2010. The circumstance of his death have never been clarified either. In all, around 90 people were killed in the course of the clashes of April and May 2010.