Journalist puts troops in clear

King's Guard did not kill civilians, witness says

A French journalist insisted Monday that a military unit which he followed during the army's crackdown on red-shirt protesters in 2010 was not responsible for the deaths of six people at Wat Pathumwanaram.

Relatives of the victims who were killed at Wat Pathumwanaram display photos of their loved ones. Six civilians including a female nurse were infamously shot dead inside the temple on May 19, 2010, the final day of the violence. (File photo by Bangkok Post)

Olivier Rotrou, 48, owner of Line Press photography company in France, has returned to Thailand to testify on March 28 at an inquest into the temple deaths.

Speaking to the Bangkok Post Monday, Mr Rotrou said he could not tell if the six deaths were caused by other soldiers or the so-called "men in black". He could only confirm it was not the work of the King's Guard Infantry Unit of the Third Regiment, which he had followed on the day of the crackdown.

Like many journalists, Mr Rotrou said he had followed soldiers from the Silom-Sala Daeng intersection on the morning of May 19, 2010, during their mission to clear red-shirt protesters from Ratchaprasong intersection.

He returned to his hotel about noon before joining the King's Guard unit at MBK shopping centre in the afternoon.

The unit headed for Siam Square from Pathumwan intersection about 5pm. Mr Rotrou said that by the time the soldiers reached Siam Theatre, the building had already burnt down.

The journalist said he was with the unit when they arrested two suspected shoplifters on their way towards Wat Pathumwanaram.

The team then moved slowly towards the temple after hearing gunfire coming from an unknown location.

About 7pm, the soldiers decided to withdraw after nearing the intersection of Henri Dunant and Rama I roads because it had become too dark.

Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi, also killed by a military-type, high velocity bullet on May 19. (Photo by Kosol Nakachol)

"We carefully retreated into the Novotel area. On the way there, a grenade was fired and exploded near where I was sitting, destroying a bottle of water which the military had just given to me," he said. He did not think the grenade was fired by other soldiers.

Mr Rotrou said he took a refuge inside the lobby of the Novotel along with some of the hotel staff.

"The infantry unit also stayed around the Novotel until the morning," he said.

Mr Rotrou said he left Siam Square about 6.30am and flew out of Thailand later the same day.

He said an army colonel in charge of the military unit emailed to ask him to testify in court and show video footage from the May 19 operation.

He said he would testify the soldiers in the unit he had travelled with were not involved in the deaths of the six people at Wat Pathumwanaram.

Mr Rotrou will testify to the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court on March 28.

His video from that morning was also helpful to put the jigsaw of another inquest of the Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi.

Polenghi's sister who was now in Bangkok was getting some footage from the French to help solidify the Polenghi investigation once the real criminal suit begins after the May 29 conclusion of Polenghi hearing.

Related search: thailand, french journalist, Olivier Rotrou, Wat Pathumwanaram, May 19 2010, red shirts, military, bangkok, Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi

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Writer: Achara Ashayagachat