What happened at Wat Pathum Wanaram?By Bangkok Pundit May 31, 2010 11:59AM UTC
Have been meaning to blog on this for the last week, but there are so many elements to this story so this blog post will be rather short.
During the crackdown on May 19, six people were killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram. Questions have been raised over who shot them and in what circumstances.
Andrew Buncombe in The Independent on the death of a red medic/nurse:
Last week, such factors combined to place the 25-year-old at Wat Pathum, the temple in central Bangkok as heavily armed government troops clashed with a small group of Red Shirt demonstrators in the street outside. As a number of people were shot and injured – some fatally – the young woman styled “Nurse Kate” by some local media, rushed to attend their injuries. Among those she treated was The Independent, struck in the leg by shrapnel. And while she was treating another injured man, wearing a white T-shirt bearing the green cross that signifies a medic, she was shot and killed.
Her body was one of six removed from Wat Pathum the following morning. Post-mortem tests have revealed that all were killed by high-velocity bullets. Ms Akahad was hit three times
In response to the suggestions that the military shot them, the army issued a non-denial denial per AAP:
The army announced it would investigate the deaths, which it said happened before security forces reached the temple in response to calls for help for people inside.
“The incident occurred at 5pm to 6pm local time (Wednesday). At that time the security officials had not yet entered Pathum Wanaram temple,” said army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd.
“If security officials want to kill people the death toll could be much higher,” he said, adding that the government was “ready to prove itself in this case”.
Later reports started to pinpoint the location of shooting coming from the SkyTrain line per The Bangkok Post:
Also interviewed by Spectrum, a UDD protester recalled a “night of terror”, where shots were fired indiscriminately into the temple. He said the gunmen were behind the concrete slabs on the second level of the elevated skytrain tracks. Everyone ran further inside the temple after the first man and the nurse were shot.
“From that position, the gunmen had a clear view of the temple,” he said.
A temple boy was also shot and slightly wounded inside the temple on Wednesday night, according to a monk. “I warned him not to taunt the soldiers but he did not listen,” he said. “A short while later, shots were fired from the BTS elevated railway.”
As I made my way back to the temple gate, a group of soldiers had already entered the temple to carry out a mop-up operation. A gun, several rounds of ammunition and other items allegedly taken from vehicles parked inside the temple compound were put on display by the soldiers.
Kittichai Khangkhan, a 43-year-old Khon Kaen resident, insists he saw a group of men wearing jackets that looked like soldiers’ uniforms on the Skytrain railway line in front of the temple – and that the men fired intensively at people in the supposed “safe zone” at 6pm on May 19.
“I am 100 percent sure that I saw the trajectory of bullets fired from the group of men stationed on the Skytrain railway line,” Kittichai said.
He was among the demonstrators who had to get away from the bullets. He hid himself behind a pickup truck, parked near the temple wall, along with some others. But he could not escape from the shooting. As he was bleeding, the mysterious men called out for them to leave the hiding place. A few minutes later, he decided to leave but another bullet hit his body.
“I was really scared,” he said. “It was a shower of bullets. They were firing at us,” he said.
Prachatai on the views of a paramedic stuck at the temple:
The bullets came from a high angle. Despite a large sign put up that read ‘Sanctuary’ and everyone’s belief that inside the temple was the safest place, bullets came from the darkness.
Keng said it was likely that the gunshots were fired from the BTS skytrain track up above. On the morning of May 20, at about 7-8 am, before police and the press came, when some of those inside the temple came out to look for food to share with the others, gunshots were fired from above. Soldiers were seen on the BTS track, carrying rifles.
Among the six dead inside the temple, three wore red cross signs.
Matichon Weekly‘s cover is below:
In response, The Nation has some denials:
Meanwhile, CRES officials said unidentified snipers were active around Rajprasong, and obstructed security operations. Spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said unidentified snipers were responsible for deaths at the temple.
CRES director Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban later assured the public that the government would not stay idle. It was collecting evidence relating to the temple deaths.
“The government will speak about this case when we have complete information,” he said. He even said men on the Skytrain line could be thieves, as security officers were not able to enter Siam Square station on May 19. Officers were only stationed at Sala Daeng and Ploenchit stations, he said.
BP: Khao Sod has the quote in Thai which matches The Nation’s translation
The Nation has a military statement which directly contradicts Suthep:
After the release of some photos showing soldiers in front of the temple, Lt General Daopong Ratanasuwan, the Army’s assistant chief of staff for operations, said troops from the 1st Division, the King’s Guard, were stationed at Siam BTS Station on May 19. They were ordered not to move closer to the temple, which was about 300 metres away. He insisted the troops were at the spot all night and entered the temple the following morning (May 20) to help police send demonstrators back home.
BP: Is it really 300 metres from Siam BTS to the temple? Well, it may depend on exactly where in the station the soldiers were. But if they were on the platform, they would have been able to clearly see the persons on the skytrain tracks with guns who were about 100-200 metres away. If these people on the tracks were shooting, wouldn’t it have made a noise that at least some of the soldiers at the Siam BTS Station were interested in investigating?
The Bangkok Post:
Maj Gen Kampanat Ruddit, commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard, the unit assigned to take position in front of the temple, denied his troops were responsible for the shootings.
“There were armed militants firing weapons from a rear area of the temple,” Maj Gen Kampanat said.
A lower ranking army source involved in Wednesday’s operation said that even though soldiers from the 1st Division of the King’s Guard did not reach the temple, there were other army special forces stationed on the overhead skytrain track.
The special forces had been assigned to provide cover for troops on the ground. “Those special forces might have had to fire at some targets in front of the temple to prevent protesters from moving to burn the Siam area and Paragon,” he said.
BP: There are two contradictory messages here. First, we weren’t there so couldn’t have been the ones firing, but also there armed militants firing (if they weren’t there, how do they know where the firing was coming from?). Second, we were firing probably to prevent more damage. Can the government/miltary argue that they weren’t there, but there were armed militants firing from the temple? There were journalists at the temple and a few non-reds so perhaps they can corroborate whether any gunfire was coming from the temple.
You do have this AFP story from May 19:
Gunshots rang out Thursday near a Buddhist temple in the heart of an anti-government protest zone in Bangkok, and soldiers were advancing on foot along an elevated train track, witnesses said.
Several gunshots were heard, striking panic into the crowd of some 2,000 people who had gathered at the temple where the bodies of six people killed in a gunbattle the day before were laid out.
The crowd retreated into the temple for shelter, as a group of six or seven soldiers took up positions on the “Skytrain” track, and advanced towards the area.
BP: In addition, Prachtai has some similiar photos showing persons in military fatigues on the skytrain tracks. The first two photos appear to show two soliders on the top track at a Skytrain station (would say Siam because they are two levels of tracks). The other photos also show four persons in military fatigues on the tracks. It is difficult to state precisely where they are, but there are stories of tracks again so it is likely to be near Siam again.
Finally, According to Matichon, someone from Puea Thai has stated that they have obtained a unseen before video clip taken from the top of the Police Hospital which clearly shows people on the BTS tracks shooting into the temple (พท.มีคลิปที่ไม่เคยเปิดเผยที่ไหนมาก่อน ป็นบันทึกภาพเคลื่อนไหวจากกล้องวิดีโอ ที่คาดว่าถ่ายจากชั้นบนของโรงพยาบาลตำรวจ ซึ่งเห็นได้ชัดเจนว่ามีบุคคลบนรางรถไฟฟ้าบีทีเอสยิงใส่วัดปทุมวนาราม).
BP: Will this clip be shown during the no-confidence debate scheduled for today and tomorrow? Will it shed any light on who the persons in military fatigues are?