On 26 Sept, Michel Maas, a reporter from the Netherlands, testified to the Department of Special Investigation as a witness to the crackdown on red-shirt protesters in May 2010.
On 19 May 2010, he was shot in the back while he was reporting news over the phone about the crackdown on Ratchadamri Rd near Lumphini Park. He believed that the bullet was fired from the direction where soldiers were deployed at Ratchadamri intersection and he did not see any ‘men in black’ or armed groups in the area.
Michel Maas at the crime scene on Ratchadamri Rd with DSI officials
He said that on that day he was standing on the red shirts’ side in front of the Bangkok Cable Company. He used his camera to zoom in the direction of Ratchadamri Rd near Chulalongkorn Hospital to look for ‘men in black’, and saw soldiers, heavily armed, firing toward the protesters, where he stood. He believed that the soldiers were aware that he was a reporter, as he was taller than everybody else and was a foreigner carrying a camera. He saw the protesters carrying only wooden sticks and one small Thai home-made handgun.
‘Then everyone, including me, ran away. When I reached the front of 185 Ratchadamri Condominium, I was shot in the back, but still kept running, until somebody saw me and took me on a motorcycle to hospital. In the case of Fabio Polenghi, the Italian journalist who was shot and killed, I do not know who shot him, because I did not see the incident but saw him when he was dead,’ Maas said.
The M16 bullet which was retrieved from Michel Maas’ body after an operation (photo by Michel Maas)
He is the only person injured during the April-May 2010 crackdown who has still kept the bullet as evidence. However, he keeps the bullet at his home in Jakarta, Indonesia, and will give it the investigators if necessary, he said.
He told reporters that he came to Thailand to provide his account of the events to the authorities to help find the culprits and he hoped that his testimony would be helpful to Fabio’s case as well.
Maas has been reporting for Volkskrant newspaper and NOS radio station in the Netherlands for over 10 years. He has covered news from battlefields including in Kosovo and Burma, but this was the first time he was injured while on duty, he said.
He told Prachatai that he never thought that he would be shot at that day, because he had expected the soldiers to give some kind of warning, such as loudspeaker announcements, firing rubber bullets or firing in the air, which is normal practice in other countries. And he was surprised that the Thai soldiers fired live ammunition.