A witness who was staying at Wat Pathum Wanaram during the May 19, 2010 crackdown on red-shirt protesters has told an inquest that fighting between "armed men" and the military took place in front of the temple.
The inquest is probing six deaths inside the temple during the crackdown. Among those killed was volunteer medic, Kedkamon Akkahad.
Abhisit Saengkaew, 19, from Ubon Ratchathani, told the prosecutor during the inquest that he saw gun muzzles on the second floor of the temple's living quarters earlier that evening. "Armed men were firing toward the military on the BTS tracks in front of the temple," said Abhisit, who appeared reluctant to testify during the inquest and nervous when questioned by lawyers for the victims.
Abhisit appeared in court wearing prison garb as he is serving a jail term in Chiang Mai for theft.
He said five of his friends whom he met at the temple had walked outside about 9pm. Abhisit said he followed them and saw them get shot near a bus stop in front of the temple.
He saw six people carrying the bodies away from the Chalermpao intersection, but saw nothing further, he said.
The ordeal terrified him and he returned to the temple to hide, he added.
He was discovered by the military the next morning and handed over to the Thung Mahamek police station.
Abhisit said he and the five others were hired by a person known only as Or in 2010 to produce hand-made rocket launchers. The agreed wage was 500 baht a day.
He said he only found out later that the weapons were used by the red shirts to attack the military.
He said he did not get paid so he and the five others moved into Wat Pathum Wanaram and relied on the monks for food. That was two days before the military cracked down on the protesters, he said.
While at the temple he saw armed men in black walking in the temple, he said.
Some of them carried M16s at night.
During the cross-examination, Abhisit said he did not know the five people he had been with at the temple particularly well, and did not contact the families of those who were killed.
He said military rangers took care of him for two months after he was interrogated by police and the Department of Special Investigation.
Three special warfare operation soldiers who were seen on the BTS track at the time have already testified.
Meanwhile, French photojournalist Olivier Rotrou arrived at the court to testify but was told by the prosecutor that he was not yet eligible to do so.
Mr Rotrou had been tracked down and summoned to testify by the military.
He had been with the King's Guard unit from the afternoon of May 19 until the next morning.
He has said that the unit had nothing to do with the six deaths inside the temple.
The next hearing is scheduled for April 28.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat