M16 'snipers' claim they only fired blanks

M16 'snipers' claim they only fired blanks

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) will ask the army to produce for examination firearms used by two soldiers believed to be snipers during the 2010 crackdown on the red-shirt rallies, DSI deputy chief Prawet Moolpramuk said yesterday.

Pol Col Prawet made the statement after Sgt Kacharat Niamrod and Sgt Saringkhan Thaweecheep appeared at the DSI yesterday to testify about their assignments during the crackdown.

Pol Col Prawet, who oversees the case, said the two soldiers were deployed near Lumpini Boxing Stadium and Soi Ngamduplee in the Bon Kai area on Rama IV Road on May 15, 2010, when the protests were at their worst.

Pol Col Prawet said the pair were photographed in a video clip during the protest in the area on that day.

He said the pair told DSI investigators that they only fired blanks from their M16 rifles to deter the protesters.

The two soldiers said they were assigned by their commanders to maintain order in the area and that they fired only a few warning shots, he said.

He said the pair told investigators they did not know if any people were killed during the clashes between security officers and protesters in Bon Kai because they used only blanks. He said the two soldiers had testified as witnesses.

He said the DSI still needed to question more witnesses before concluding its probe into the deaths of 91 protesters and soldiers in April and May of 2010.

Pol Col Prawet said he now has a list of people who will be questioned by the DSI, and that it will be up to investigators whether to summon former army chief Anupong Paojinda for questioning.

At the time of the protests, Gen Anupong was army chief and deputy director of the now-dissolved Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation, which handled the unrest.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday he had permitted the two soldiers to give statements to the DSI.

Gen Prayuth reiterated that the two soldiers, accused by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) of being snipers during the red-shirt protests, were only assigned a "role of vigilance".

Meanwhile, Democrat MP Watchara Phetthong called on DSI chief Tarit Pengdith to keep his pledge to give 10 million baht from the DSI's budget as a cash reward for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the so-called "men in black" who were filmed shooting protesters during the unrest.

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