Andrew Buncombe: I didn't see who shot me – but those who were looking have few doubts
Saturday 11 December 2010
Many of those trapped inside Wat Pathum that terrifying afternoon last May probably didn't actually see who was responsible for turning a Buddhist temple into a killing ground.
As the bullets flew, those unfortunate enough to find themselves at the front of the compound fled for safety wherever they could: behind trees, behind cars, crouched behind low brick walls. Their swirling emotions were a mixture of fear and astonishment.
A number of those who did manage to look up said they saw troops on the overhead railway, taking up positions and aiming weapons. And while everyone is aware of the abilities of Photoshop to distort or create an image, subsequent photographs published in those newspapers that had the courage to print them appeared to provide supplementary evidence of the presence of the soldiers.
I didn't see who was firing that chaotic afternoon. When the bullets started, I was taking cover with everyone else and when I was struck, I was lying down on my side trying to take a photograph of the medical volunteers working on the injured. It was ironic that one of them would run across the concrete and drag me to safety. But even those who did not see the troops in action concluded they were almost certainly responsible for the shots that entered the temple.
Earlier in the week, soldiers had been casually spraying bullets at Red Shirt protesters armed with stones and fireworks elsewhere in the city. They didn't seem to care that the protesters had taken up a position in a residential area and that the bullets of their M16s would likely travel a very long way.
Now we know that the troops responsible for shooting into Wat Pathum were not raw recruits but supposedly "élite" special forces. Even if, as they claim, someone was firing at them from the temple (and remember, no independent witness has come forward to verify this), did they not pause to think that their bullets might harm the innocent? Precisely what special training to these troops receive?
What also remains unclear is the intention of the soldiers. Are we supposed to believe someone struck by three bullets could be the victim of loose "covering fire"?
If, on the other hand, those shots were aimed, what was going through the minds of the soldiers as their sights came to pause on young female volunteers wearing shirts marked with large green crosses that in Thailand signify a medic? Or, for that matter, on journalists wearing green armbands that had been handed out for the media?
Although it confirms the deadly role of the troops, Thailand's Department of Special Investigations report still leaves unanswered many of the most vital questions that were being asked in the immediate aftermath of 19 May. Who was in control that day and who gave the order to shoot? Did Thailand's Prime Minister, Mr Abhisit, approve of these orders? What was his role? And what is he going to do about it now?
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