Army chief also demands answers

As red-shirts held activities on Wednesday to remember the protesters killed in street clashes with security forces on April 10 three years ago, the army commander could not hide his frustration at the long delay in the investigation into the deaths of his soldiers in the fight at Khok Wua.

  • Published: 10/04/2013 at 05:26 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) core leaders observe a minute's silence Wednesday in memory of Reuters cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto, who was killed during the April 10, 2010 political violence. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), lead by chairwoman Tida Tawornseth, organised commemorative activities on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to remind members of the day anti-government protesters clashed with soldiers and police.

Her husband, Weng Tojirakan, laid a wreath to pay respect to those killed in the exchange of gunfire, and other supporters laid roses to commemorate their fight against the government then led by prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The clash at Khok Wua intersection near the Democracy Monument on April 10, 2010 resulted in the death of six soldiers and 20 protesters. Scores more were injured.

The momentum of the violence was carried on from that day to May 19, when government forces cracked down on the red-shirts at Ratchaprasong intersection and dispersed the month-long rally.

During the final violence, as the protesters dispersed, many buildings were set ablaze in Bangkok, including shopping malls, and government centres in several provinces were also set on fire.

Red-shirt members lay roses on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to commemorate the bloody clash on April 10, 2010. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Key leaders of the UDD, including Nattawut Saikuar and Jatuporn Promphan, did not attend the commemoration on Wednesday afternoon and sent  wreaths instead.

The gathering of UDD supporters today is to mark the the third anniversary of the April 10, 2010 event to purge "the dictators'' and restore democracy to the country, Mrs Tida said. "This is a historic day for the UDD,'' she added.

The UDD activities were to continue into the night. Two parades, one from Sanam Luang and another from Phan Fa bridge, were to meet at the Democracy monument later in the day.

Police were deployed in large numbers to ensure the demonstration remained peaceful.

Mr Weng said earlier that the UDD rally would demand the release of colleagues still in detention and call for punishment for those who broke the law.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday sent to a firm message to the UDD and investigators working on the case, reminding then soldiers were among the victims of April 10, 2010.

He said the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) was dragging its feet in the investigation of the deaths and injuries among the soldiers.

Gen Prayuth said the army had received complaints from the wounded and relatives of those killed. They wanted to know if the DSI had made any progress in its investigation, he said.

"I think little progress has been made. Those responsible for the losses must be found, even though both sides claimed they had not done anything wrong. Soldiers are also citizens of Thailand," the army chief said.

He said that not only the UDD protesters sustained losses in the 2010 protest violence. The police, military and civilians also suffered casualties. All sides were entitled to justice, he added.

The legal office of the army will ask the DSI for a progress report on its investigation into the deaths of soldiers during the Khok Wua clash.

The dead included Col Romklao Thuwatham , who was promoted posthumously to full general.

Mrs Nicha Hirunburana Thuwatham, the wife of Gen Romklao, left, and former army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda, right, made a religious ceremony at Wat Bowonivet Vihara for her late husband. (Photo by Nauvarat Suksamran)

Gen Romklao's widow, Nicha Hirunburana Thuwatham,  and former army commander Gen Anupong Paojinda peformed religious rites at Wat Bowonivet Vihara near Khok Wua for the dead soldiers.

Mrs Nicha said she could not overcome the loss of her husband and vowed to fight for justice. Although the investigation was  moving slowly, the public already knew who killed him, she added.

Mr Abhisit, the Democrat Party leader, was in line with Gen Prayuth, saying that many lessons were learned from the clash on April 10 2010  - particularly how to better control protests in the future to prevent the loss of lives.

But the public is still waiting the answer to the question who were behind the deaths and injuries, he said.

"I believe that one thing we want to know most is the truth, in addition to compensation measures which are under way,'' he said on the party's Blue Sky TV channel. "One thing which caused the situation to deteriorate was the presence the armed men we know as the 'men in black'. They were active and they caused the losses,'' he said.

He urged the government to speed up the investigation in to the deaths of members of the security forces.

DSI chief Tarit Pengdit said the investigation into the violent political incidents in 2010 is continuing. There was some progress and the department was ready to brief the army, he said.

 On the death of Gen Romklao, then deputy chief-of-staff of the 2nd Infantry Division, Mr Tarit said evidence obtained by the DSI indicated that he was killed a group of unidentified armed men.

Witnesses said they saw the men appear at the rally and move toward the scene of the clash.  It was believed these men were linked to the death of Gen Romklao, the DSI chief said.

Mr Tarit said the prosecutors advised the DSI to find witnesses who saw the unidentified armed men open an attack with war weapons.  The DSI had not been able to do so.

With photographs available, the DSI was still unable to identify any individuals believed to be in the group.  The DSI had distributed those pictures for people to provide clues to identify them, he added.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan police will renew the investigation to find who set fire to CentralWorld shopping mall on May 19, 2010 after two red shirts suspected of committing the crime were acquitted for lack of witnesses and evidence.

Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Kamronwit Thoopkrachang and his deputy Anuchai Lekbamrung on Wednesday held a meeting of investigators handling the case for about one hour to discuss the matter.

Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit said he called the meeting of the investigators on receiving a complaint from Mrs Tida, calling for the police to re-investigate the case to find the real culprits after two red-shirt suspects - Saichol Paebua, 31, and Pinij Channarong, 29 - were acquitted for lack of evidence and witnesses.

A team of investigators led by himself and Pol Maj Gen Anuchai was set up to re-investigate the case and gather evidence. 

On the completion of the investigation, a report would be submitted to the DSI for consideration, he said.

The next meeting of the investigators had been set for April 17.

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