Thai Parliamentary Panel: Shooter of Teen in Coma May Have Police Link

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2021-09-17
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Thai Parliamentary Panel: Shooter of Teen in Coma May Have Police Link Riot police clash with anti-government demonstrators during a protest over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and to demand the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, in the Din Daeng district of Bangkok, Sept. 7, 2021.
[Reuters]

A Thai parliamentary fact-finding panel said on Friday that the alleged shooters of two teens during anti-government protests last month – including a 15-year-old boy who lies in a coma – may have links with the police.

The alleged shooters and 10 other men in civilian clothes were walking around the Din Daeng junction unafraid of being spotted or caught, and were also seen on the premises of the area’s police station on Aug. 16, the day of the shootings, panel chairman Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat said.

“The panel has an observation that the group who assaulted people without fear may have a connection with the police,” lawmaker Nattacha told a press briefing, referring to the lower house panel appointed after the shootings to investigate protest violence.

The MP said the panel viewed CCTV footage showing a man in a light-colored shirt, whose face cannot be seen clearly, pointing a handgun at someone who is believed to be a different boy, a 14-year-old, who was shot. Footage from six minutes later showed the 15-year-old boy falling down after being shot, although the shooter could not be seen.

The MP said panel members had heard dozens of witness testimonies, scrutinized CCTV footage from 54 city cameras and inspected scores of photographs from the day of the shooting to try and determine who shot the boys.

BenarNews called the Din Daeng police station chief and the national police bureau spokesman, but neither returned calls. After the Aug. 16 incident, Din Daeng station chief Pol. Col. Rathchai Sriwichai had said police had not used live ammunition that day.

Nattacha said the chief had also denied outsiders were at the station.

The 15-year-old boy “was unconscious, not breathing, without a pulse and had a bullet entry on his neck,” said a statement from Rajavithi Hospital in August after the boy was brought there. The other teen suffered a bullet wound to the shoulder.

During largely peaceful protests that began in July 2020, protesters have called for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to step down, the constitution to be rewritten, and the monarchy to be reformed. But the PM’s alleged failure to handle the COVID-19 pandemic has ignited increasingly violent demonstrations.

Police, meanwhile, especially in Bangkok, “overuse force and weapons, which results in frequent confrontations between protesters and authorities,” NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said earlier this week.

Dozens of children and teens have been arrested in Bangkok in recent weeks – a 12-year-old bystander was arrested Monday – as police round up protesters amid near-daily, violent street battles with small groups of anti-government activists, TLHR said.

‘Today the police have sufficient evidence’

Opposition lawmaker Nattacha described parts of the footage he and other panel members watched, and nailed down what appear to be the exact times of the shootings on Aug. 16 – a day when police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to deter about 200 mostly young protesters.

“At 8:38 p.m., a man in black ran with a handgun aiming at a pedestrian believed to be A [the 14-year-old],” Nattacha said.

The boy told the panel that “men armed with wooden sticks and a revolver trapped him on the road so he left his motorcycle, tried to run away on foot and later realized he was shot,” Nattacha added.

All the footage was recorded by CCTVs placed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

“At 20:44, footage … showed B [the 15-year-old] running on Mitmaitree Road. … He is then seen shot and falling down,” Nattacha said.

The shooter is not visible, but a bullet on a wall near where the boy fell can determine where the gunman was standing, the lawmaker said. Some witnesses had said they heard several rounds being fired.

“There was a bullet mark on a wall, which can tell that the trajectory was from an alley in front of Din Daeng station, no protesters [were] there,” the lawmaker said.

Footage from another angle showed “a man in a light-colored shirt, short pants and carrying a sling bag standing there in the alley. This man was also seen in other footage where the group of 12 attacked the 14-year-old boy a few minutes earlier,” Nattacha said.

One of the dozens of photographs the panel scrutinized showed the same group of men on the premises of the Din Daeng police station, he said.

“The Din Daeng police station chief had said there was nobody else on the premises that night, so we want to know whether they [the group] were policemen,” Nattacha said.

 Nipaporn Somnoi, the mother of the boy who is in a coma, said the panel’s findings show there is plenty of evidence for the case to move forward. She said there had been no progress made by the police in a month of investigation.

“I don’t want this case to get quiet and wane like many other past cases,” Nipaporn told reporters.

“I see that today the police have sufficient evidence to make the case clear as soon as possible. There are split opinions on the culprits – his [the boy’s] enemies or the police.”

Kunnawut Boonreak in Chiang Mai, Thailand, contributed to this report.

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