Thailand: Young Protester in Coma after Being Struck by Bullet

Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2021-08-17
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Thailand: Young Protester in Coma after Being Struck by Bullet Rescue workers assist an injured protester before transferring him to the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, Aug. 16, 2021.
Courtesy Ruamkatanyu Foundation

A Thai teen is in a coma after being shot in the neck during clashes between police and anti-government protesters near a Bangkok police station, a hospital and his mother said Tuesday.

In a statement, the Rajavithi Hospital said an unidentified man in his 20s was admitted Monday evening after suffering a bullet wound. A woman later identified the shooting victim as her 15-year-old son.

“At admission, he was unconscious, breathless, pulseless and had bullet entry on his neck. After six minutes of CPR, he regained vital signs,” the statement said. “A CT scan result showed the bullet lodged at the brain stem and fractured first and second cervical vertebra.”

“As of today, the injured is unconscious, comatose, on a respirator with stable vital signals. He is under assessment,” the statement went on to say.

Nipaporn Somnoi, the boy’s mother, told reporters she learned about his injuries on social media.

“He asked me permission to join the protest but I denied, telling him it’s not the business of a boy like him, but he did not listen,” Nipaporn said.

As of Tuesday, authorities had not determined who shot the teen or what kind of bullet struck him during the rally a day earlier near the Din Daeng police station. Officers said they used only rubber bullets while a government spokesman reported live ammunition was found at the scene.

“[We] confirm that we used riot gear approved by the government, there was no live ammunition fired,” Pol. Lt. Gen. Pakapong Pongpetra, the chief of the Bangkok Metropolitan Police Bureau, told reporters.

Police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to deter about 200 mostly young protesters on motorbikes and others who sought to march to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s residence to call for him to resign over mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Observers called Monday’s protesters a hardcore faction that splintered from peaceful “car mob” gatherings where motorists honk, chant or unfurl posters. Local media, police and social media sources showed them using small pipe bombs and sling shots against police on Monday.

Pakapong said six police officers and a few other protesters suffered less serious injuries on Monday. Police had earlier claimed an officer was struck in the neck by a bullet fired from a home-made air gun on Aug. 7.

The Thai foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday in support of the police actions the night before.

“The police also stressed that they had followed procedures in accordance with domestic law and international practice, announcing forewarnings before taking any actions and doing so only in necessary circumstances to deescalate potential violent incidents or physical harm,” spokesman Tanee Sangrat said. “Only rubber bullets and barriers were used as part of crowd-control measures.”

Noting that officers reported finding live ammunition at the scene, he called on the public to allow the investigation to proceed.

“[A]ll sides and particularly the press should refrain from making unsubstantiated accusations until investigations have been completed, so as to not further aggravate the situation,” he said.

Since July 2020, protesters have called for Prayuth’s resignation, a rewriting of constitution and reform of the monarchy.

More recently, they have expressed anger over the government’s failure to curb the pandemic.

Nearly 950,000 Thais, including more than 500,000 in the last four weeks, have contracted COVID-19, while 24 million of the nation’s more than 66 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine.

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