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"Here's what happened"

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For the first time, an army commander involved in the bloody crackdown on April 10, 2010 has spoken publicly about what happened. 

Troops armed with M16 rifles march to Tanao Road before the April 10 crackdown turned bloody. TAWEECHAI TAWATPAKORN


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We were overwhelmed, says colonel

Commander testifies on April 10 clashes

POST REPORTERS

A soldier was shot dead during the fight. JETJARAS NA RANONG

An army officer who commanded soldiers during a confrontation with red shirt protesters on April 10 last year says he regrets the loss of life but his men were outnumbered.

They were attacked by unknown assailants using guns and explosives, said Col Thammanoon Withee, head of the 1st Army Command Operations Unit.

He recalled the clash in testimony to a subpanel of the Truth for Reconciliation Committee, which is looking into the violence. It was the first time an army officer had spoken at the inquiry in public about the clash, which claimed 27 lives.

Col Thammanoon said his troops could not accomplish the mission they were assigned, to reopen connecting roads on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue to traffic by clearing away protesters.

"A few thousand troops were operating that day and night. They faced tens of thousands of protesters, whose numbers grew quickly into the evening and night," said Col Thammanoon, then a deputy commander of the 12th Infantry Regiment from Sa Kaeo.

Other units in the clearing operation included 450 troops from the 19th Infantry Regiment (Kanchanaburi), 300 from the 2nd Artillery Regiment, 300 from the 21st Infantry Regiment, and a few hundred others from units including the 2nd Infantry Regiment led by deputy chief-of-staff Romklao Tuwatham.

Col Thammanoon said his unit travelled along Phitsanulok Road on to Nakhon Ratchasima Road, straight to Din So Road, reaching Satriwithaya School by 5pm.

"We were very close to the protesters, separated from them only by pickup trucks. They gave us food and water as supplies could not reach us.

"We were in effect sealed off and outnumbered by protesters," Col Thammanoon told the subpanel chaired by Somchai Homla-or.

Asked why the operation was conducted at night, Col Thammanoon said his commander ordered a halt by 6.15pm but he could not withdraw from the area.

The 12th, 21st and 19th Infantry Regiment troops were confronted by tens of thousands of pushing protesters, he said.

Asked if there were any soldiers stationed in nearby buildings, he said there were too few troops and they could not be divided up to seal those buildings.

"The men who were shooting were not us. In fact, even soldiers in helicopters were shot."

Col Thammanoon was injured by the first of two bomb blasts that hit Din So Road, as commanders were having discussions with their immediate commander, Maj Gen Walit Rajanapakdi.

The second bomb followed shortly after, killing Col Romklao and seriously injuring Maj Gen Walit and the commanders present.

He said the blasts did not come from hand grenades or M-79s, or more soldiers and civilians would have been killed. He believed they were improvised explosive devices, since a dozen nails from the blasts were found afterwards.

He said he asked Bangkok opposition MP Vicharn Meenchainan, who was among the protesters, to tell the red shirt leaders to stop pushing as there were so many injured soldiers.

"Residents helped Maj Gen Walit, who was injured, change into plain clothes so they could move him from the area," he said.

"Some red shirt protesters also helped stop the beating so soldiers could flee."

Rescue teams found it just as hard to do their job, said Songsak Poomsaidon, head of the Disaster Command Centre under the National Institute of Emergency Medical Service.

"We are supposed to be treated as neutrals but soldiers thought we were supplying arms to the protesters, and protesters thought we were supplying food to the troops," Mr Songsak told the hearing.

The panel's inquiries are continuing.

troops – soldiers, especially in large numbers กองทหาร
armed – carrying weapons  ติดอาวุธ
overwhelmed – defeated over overpowered completely พ่ายแพ้,  ถูกปกคลุม
commander – the head of an army or army unit ผู้บังคับบัญชา
testify – to make a statement about something that you saw, know, or experienced, usually in a court of law or to an investigating group ให้การเป็นพยาน
clash – a fight or battle between two groups of people การต่อสู้ด้วยกำลัง
colonel  – an officer of high rank in the army, the marines, or the  air force  พันเอก
crackdown – strong action that someone in authority takes to stop a particular activity การใช้กำลังเข้าปราบปรามของเจ้าหน้าที่
confrontation – a situation in which people or groups are arguing angrily or are fighting การเผชิญหน้า
protester – someone who shows that they disagree with something by standing somewhere, shouting, carrying signs, etc  ผู้ต่อต้าน, ผู้ประท้วง
regret – a feeling of sadness about something sad or wrong or about a mistake that you have made, and a wish that it could have been different and better ความโทมนัส,ความเสียใจ,ความเศร้าโศก
outnumbered – having fewer people than another group มีคนน้อยกว่า
assailant – someone who violently attacks another person  ผู้ทำร้าย
recalled - remembered นึกทบทวน จำได้
testimony – a formal statement about something that you say, know or experienced, usually given to a court of law or to a formal investigation คำให้การ
panel – a group of people who make decisions or judgments คณะกรรมการ
subpanel – a committee set up by a panel to do a particular job
reconciliation – a new and friendly relationship with someone who you argued with or fought with การทำให้ปรองดองกันอีก,  การสมานฉันท์
violence – physical force with the deliberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people ความรุนแรง
inquiry – an official examination of a crime, accident, problem, etc., in order to get information or the truth การไต่สวน
claim lives – to kill people
accomplish – to achieve something ทำได้สำเร็จ
mission – an important job, especially a military one, that someone is sent somewhere to do ภาระกิจ, หน้าที่, งาน
deputy – a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation รอง
infantry – soldiers who fight on foot, not on horses or in tanks or other vehicles ทหารราบ
regiment – a large group of soldiers กรมทหาร, กองทหาร
artillery – large powerful guns that are used by an army and are moved on wheels or fixed in one place ปืนใหญ่
chief-of-staff – the most senior officer in the army, navy, or air force  เสนาธิการ
unit – a group of people who work or live together, especially for a particular purpose หน่วย,กอง,กลุ่ม
separated – kept or put apart แยก
in effect – in reality; actually; used for giving a summary of what you think the situation really is ตามความเป็นจริง
seal off – to prevent people from entering an area or building  ปิด ห้ามไม่ให้เข้า
chair – to be the person in charge of a meeting, committee, or company ดำรงตำแหน่งประธาน, ทำหน้าที่ในฐานะประธาน
conduct –to carry out — ดำเนิน
halt – stop หยุด
withdraw - to take or move out or back ถอนตัวจาก
station – to cause, especially soldiers, to be in a particular place to do a job ตั้งฐานปฎิบัติการ,ตั้งประจำ
immediate – nearest in relationship or rank โดยตรง,ใกล้ชิด, ,ถัดมา
injured – hurt in an accident or attack ซึ่งได้รับบาดเจ็บ
grenade – a small bomb that someone throws or fires from a gun ลูกระเบิดเล็ก
civilian – of someone who does not belong to the armed forces or the police พลเรือน
improvised – invented or made at the time when it is needed without already having planned it กระทำหรือประพันธ์อย่างไม่ได้มีการตระเตรียมมาก่อน หรืออย่างทันทีทันควัน
nail – a small thin pointed piece of metal with a flat head, used for hanging things on a wall or for joining pieces of wood together ตะปู
blast – an explosion การระเบิด
opposition – of a political party that is not part of the government or a group which is against the government ฝ่ายค้าน  ผู้ต่อต้าน
residents – people who live in a particular area ประชาชนที่อาศัยในท้องที่
plain – ordinary; with nothing added  ธรรมดา
beat – to hit someone violently several times ตี, เคาะ, หวด, ตบ, เฆี่ยน
flee – to leave a place or person quickly because you are afraid of possible danger หนี อพยพ
rescue – to save someone form a dangerous or unpleasant situation ช่วยชีวิต
disaster – something very bad that happens and causes a lot of damage  ความหายนะ
emergency – an unexpected situation involving danger in which immediate action is necessary เหตุฉุกเฉิน
treat – to behave in a particular way towards somebody/something ปฏิบัติ(ต่อ)
neutral – a person or country that does not support either side in a disagreement, competition or war  ผู้เป็นกลาง, ผู้ไม่ฝักใฝ่ฝ่ายใดฝ่ายหนึ่ง

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