Testimonies of victims of April-May crackdowns

"People's Information Center: The April-May 2010" (PIC) held a public hearing to gather information from those who were injured and from family members of those who were killed during the incidents.  The Thammasat Auditorium was packed with an audience mostly wearing red shirts, who came to share their experience.

On 25 Sept, a public forum and concert to raise funds for victims and relatives were held at Thammasat’s Sriburapha Hall.


In the public hearing, many who were injured in the incidents shared their experience with the audience and a panel of academics including Chaiyan Ratchakul from Chiang Mai University, Sawatree Suksri from Thammasat, Kasem Phenphinan from Chulalongkorn, and Krittaya Atchawanitkul and Bencharat Saechua from Mahidol.

Thongchai Ngian and Santipong Inchan

Santipong Inchan lost his right eye from a rubber bullet at Khok Wua intersection on 10 April.  On the afternoon on that day, he was at home preparing food to be distributed to the protesters.  Listening to the radio on the internet, he was informed that the military were preparing to disperse the crowd while there were a small number of protesters.  He and his family arrived at the Democracy Monument at 2 pm, and he went to Khok Wua intersection to help push the troops back, as urged by the red-shirt leaders on stage.  He saw the protesters and the troops form front lines facing each other with a fence and some space in between.  The protesters were singing and dancing.  Then tear gas canisters were dropped from a helicopter, forcing the protesters to run in search of water to wash their faces before regrouping.  At about 6 pm, they sang the national anthem, with a picture of the King placed in front of them.  At dusk, the troops started to move forward and the clash occurred.

Santipong told the panel that the troops at the front wielded batons and shields, but the soldiers at the rear carried guns, while the protesters had water bottles, stones and plastic bags of pla ra or fermented fish.  The troops kept on moving, and the protesters stood their ground.  When they clashed, the protesters could not resist the troops.  He heard the sounds of gunfire, and saw injured people carried away to hospital.  He bent down to wash tear gas from his face, and at that moment he was hit by a rubber bullet in the eye.

He wanted the government to take responsibility for what it had done, to tell the truth and accept the truth.

‘I never saw the 7 steps from light to heavy as claimed by the government.  It only started from heavy and went to heavier,’ Santipong said.

Wasan Phuthong was shot dead in front of Satree Witthaya School on 10 April.  Klin Tian-yim, his brother in law, played a video clip of the incident to refute the claim by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) that the fatal shot was fired from the direction of the protesters.  He expressed extreme frustration about the fact that after almost 6 months, no progress had been made regarding the autopsy and the legal case.  The family had received only a medical certificate which said that Wasan was killed by a high-velocity bullet.  They are still keeping Wasan’s body as evidence for future investigation.

Thongchai Ngian, a vendor selling fried mackerel, was shot in both sides of the hip at Lumphini Park on 14 May.  A CNN news clip was shown, in which Thongchai and a Canadian reporter were shot in the late morning near the park’s fence.

Thongchai Ngian at a market at Soi Onnuch 46

He said that he was on his way along Rama IV Rd to buy mackerel as usual, but could only reach Bon Kai as the road was blocked.  Out of curiosity, he rode around on his motorcycle and found a large crowd of people and reporters gathered near Lumphini Police Station amid intermittent sound of gunfire.  He and the Canadian reporter crossed the road and crouched beside the park fence to try to find the direction of the gunfire.  Then in a series of shots that lasted about 10 minutes, the Canadian reporter was hit and fell.  When Thongchai got up to go to help him, he was hit in the right hip first, and then in the left.  Some people ran to help him, and he told them to help the reporter first as he was shot in the stomach.  He was later carried away by others.

‘They carried me.  It was too painful.  I said that I couldn’t bear this.  I couldn’t be dragged away like that.  I told them to find something to carry me on, or else I would not move.  So they brought a police shield to carry me to the police station,’ he said.

He was then taken to hospital where doctors performed an operation and retrieved a bullet, which police later identified as an M16 bullet made in China.

Chaiwat Pumpuang, a photographer for the Nation, was shot in the leg on Ratchaprarop Rd on 15 May.  He went up on stage with help of a crutch and a photographer friend who was also with him when he was shot.  Chaiwat said that he and his friend were wearing bullet-proof vests with the word ‘PRESS’, and press armbands.  He rode a motorcycle into Soi Rangnam at about 10.30 am, and passed through to Ratchaprarop Rd.  He saw one dead body which protesters were trying to drag away without success, due to gunfire from the troops.  The shooting stopped when they arrived, and the protesters were able to take two bodies away, including 15-year-old Samaphan Srithep.  The shooting resumed around 2-3 pm.  Chaiwat kept taking photos, assuming that he would not be shot, but he was shot in the leg.  He sat down, and made a phone call to his friend who was nearby.  About 25-30 minutes later, soldiers came to take him to a military medical vehicle.  He saw three coffins inside the vehicle, but did not know whether there were any corpses in them, because it was dark inside.  He also told the panel that he did not see the protesters fighting the troops with weapons, only with bamboo rockets and firecrackers.

His medical certificate says only that he was shot by a high-velocity bullet which could not be identified as it splintered into pieces in his leg.  He was hospitalized for 10 days, with no police interrogation.  He would sue the government to set a precedent.

His friend Uthorn believed that there was a sniper unit deployed at one of the buildings called Chivatai, and the soldiers were hunting down protesters on the ground.  During the clash, he went to hide inside a building with three rescue volunteers.  Four soldiers came and ordered them to lie down.  The soldiers searched them at gunpoint and asked them where those who were injured had been taken as they saw traces of blood pointing in this direction.

Uthorn showed a photo of a relative of a famous singer who was shot dead on the balcony of a condominium at Soi Rangnam.  The wound in the ear showed that the man was shot by someone firing from a building at the same level, not from below, he said.  He also showed photos of soldiers aiming their guns.

‘I took photos of yellow shirts and red shirts.  The state adopted different practices, as the world may know.  With the yellow shirts, the military did one thing.  With the red shirts, the military did something else.  The yellow shirts were dispersed with tear gas, people died, and the Police Chief was fired.  The red shirts were shot, but the Army Chief stays on,’ Uthorn said.

Nick Nostitz, an independent photo journalist, witnessed a killing at Ratchaprarop Rd on 15 May.  A video clip from a high angle was played, showing 6-7 protesters dodging bullets from behind a pile of tyres in front of a Shell gas station amidst the sound of gunfire.

Nick said that he arrived at the scene at about 11 am when about 60 unarmed protesters were gathered.  When the shooting began, some protesters ran behind the gas station to try to climb over the fence of a house to escape.  A red shirt Charnnarong Pholsrila, who had been shot in the stomach, managed with difficulty to climb the wall and fell into a lily pond inside the house.  Nick turned himself in to soldiers who caught up with them, and identified himself as a reporter.  The soldiers ordered him to pull Charnnarong from the pool.  He tried to do as ordered, but could not pull the man out by himself, so he asked the soldiers to help.  One soldier cursed Charnnarong, saying ‘Bastard.  Why don’t you die?  You’d be better dead than injured, if I have to take you son of a bitch to hospital.’

Charnnarong Pholsrila (photo by Nick Nostitz)

Nick and Charnnarong were stuck there for 3 and a half hours before military medics came.

The panel asked whether he could confirm who did the shooting. Nick answered that during that time the shooting appeared to come from the military side.

One month later, Nick tried to find Charnnarong and found that he was among the dead.  He has agreed to be a witness in Charnnarong’s case with the Phaya Thai police.  He has also been approached by Kanit Na Nakhon’s committee and the Department of Special Investigation to give testimony.  He said that he was willing to give information to all sides.

‘I’ve no problem.  I’m a reporter and I just do my job.  I have no anger against anybody.  I just tell the truth, and am willing to talk to everybody,’ he said.

Seksit Changthong was shot on Rama IV Rd in front of the headquarters of the Phue Thai Party on 19 May.  He has lost the sight of both eyes.  A video clip was played to show the incident which happened around 10-11 am when the military made an announcement, ordering everybody to move from behind a bus within 3 seconds, before opening fire.  Ambulances were prohibited from entering the area.

Seksit Changthong

Seksit was led onto the stage, while a moderator described the clip he could not see.

He said that he was a motorcycle taxi driver.  He had been with other protesters since 7.30 am on that day.  More and more protesters gathered, calling on the soldiers not to shoot their fellows at Ratchaprasong.  In the clip, the soldiers did negotiate with the protesters before opening fire.  He remembered that when he was shot, there was no warning.  He heard gunfire from all directions, and saw a tree branch cut down by bullets.  He dodged away from the bullets, but when he stood up he was hit and fell with his face to the ground.  He could not open his eyes, and called for help.

The bullet is still buried between his eyes, destroying his optical nerve.  Doctors said that even if the bullet was removed, he would not recover his sight.  However, he still needs an operation because the bullet buried in there causes pain in his eyes and head and he sheds tears when he opens his eyes.  He has to keep his eyes closed.

Asked if he saw any protesters carrying weapons, he said that they only had their hands and mouths, calling on the soldiers not to fire at the people.

He said that he had never received any help from the government.

During Seksit’s testimony, a member of the audience got up to collect donations.  6000 baht was collected and donated to the cost of an operation to remove the bullet.

Pornpimol Punphol was one of those who got stuck inside Pathum Wanaram Temple on 19 May.  The audience was shown clips of soldiers on the BTS rail tracks and interviews of witnesses who pointed to bullet holes on the temple’s wall and a bonnet of a car which showed that the bullets were fired from a high angle.

Pornpimol, a Bangkok resident, joined the protests from the start to the end.  She said that at about 6 pm that day, she saw soldiers open fire from the BTS rail tracks, shouting to those who were hiding under cars parked in front of the temple to come out.  She saw on the rail tracks the faces of 4-5 soldiers carrying guns with pink stickers on their helmets.  All those who were hiding under the cars finally came out.  The men were ordered to take off their shirts and raise their hands.  The soldiers said that they would come to interrogate them, and then the protesters, about 20 of them, ran into the temple.  Six people were killed.  The gunfire continued intermittently throughout the night until the next morning.

Others in the audience also shared their experiences.  Many had been shot in the throat, leg and foot.  They said that they would not submit any demands to the government as they had no trust left.

‘They [the government] look like frauds.  If I ever make any demand, I will make it to a future government,’ said Thotsapon who was shot in the throat at Saladaeng intersection.


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