Court: Red cabbie shot by soldiers

The Criminal Court on Monday ruled that a taxi driver who was a supporter of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) was shot dead by soldiers in the heart of Bangkok during the red-shirt street protests in 2010.

Criminal litigation prosecutors had earlier asked the court to establish the identity and circumstances surrounding the death of a man shot in front of a petrol station in Soi Rang Nam on May 15, 2010, an area where the emergency decree had been imposed by the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

From the questioning of witnesses, the court identified the man as Channarong Phonsrila, a red-shirt taxi driver taking part in the UDD protest. While he was helping to make a barricade with auto tyres in front of a Shell petrol station in Soi Rang Nam, shots were fired and Channarong was hit in the abdomen.

Channarong died at Phayathai 1 Hospital.

The court said that from the examination of evidence, Channarong was hit with .223 or 5.56mm calibre high velocity bullets which could have been fired from an M16, HK 33 or Tavor Tar rifle.

Information from Thai and foreign reporters led to a conclusion that the bullets were fired by soldiers positioned behind rolls of barbed wire and a stack of sandbags on Ratchaprarop road.

Although soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Battalion of the 1st Infantry Regiment were said to have been deployed in the area under an order by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), none of the witnesses saw with their own eyes who actually fired the shots.

Therefore, it could not be concluded that the fatal shots were fired by 3rd Infantry Battalion soldiers. They could have been fired by soldiers from other units.

Present at the court to hear the ruling were Channarong's widow Suriyan and their two daughters, along with UDD chair Tida Tawornseth and UDD core member Weng Tojirakan.

Ms Tida said she was glad the cause of the taxi driver's death had been established.

Mr Weng said since Channarong was shot dead by soldiers on duty under a CRES order, Mr Abhisit, then the prime minister, and then deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, director of the CRES at the time, must be held responsible.

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