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Thai Investigation Blames both sides for Deadly 2010 Political Violence

Kanit na Nakorn, chairman of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission (TRC), centre, appears with other TRC members at a press conference yesterday as the TRC releases its final report on political violence during April-May 2010. APICHIT JINAKUL

 

Chiangrai Times – An independent commission investigating deadly political violence that wracked Thailand two years ago issued a final report Monday that blamed both the government then in power and the so-called Red Shirts who were protesting against it.

The Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand announced its findings on the March-May 2010 protests, in which at least 91 people died and almost 2,000 were injured by the time they were suppressed by the army. The protesters were mostly supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister by a military coup in 2006.

The commission was appointed by then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and was supported by the current government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister.

However, its power was limited because it could not issue subpoenas or grant immunity in exchange for testimony and did not have any authority to bring people to justice.

Its position between the two highly polarized sides also left it without political backing and marginalized its influence.

“Each person or each side has their own sets of truth. By using facts based on scientific evidence, we hope (the report) can bring those views to the same understanding, more or less,” said Somchai Homla-or, the commission’s chief investigator.

The report blamed both sides for failing to avoid the use of deadly force.

The commission found that Red Shirt leaders had incited violence in their speeches during the demonstrations and failed to stop protesters from confronting or retaliating against security forces.

While the Red Shirts claimed their protests were peaceful and unarmed, the commission said the violence was intensified by the presence of a “Black Shirt” armed group associated with a hardcore wing of the protest leaders.

The commission also found military personnel used live ammunition during the clashes, a point the army has sometimes disputed. They recommended that crowd control in the future should be handled by professionally trained police officers.

Also Monday, an inquest held by Bangkok’s Criminal Court ruled that a taxi driver from rural Thailand was fatally shot during the 2010 protests by soldiers acting on government orders.

It was the first legal ruling placing blame for the death of a civilian during the crisis on the security forces, although several investigations by state bodies have reached similar conclusions. It remains to be seen if soldiers will be covered by immunity conferred by emergency decrees in place at the time.

No soldiers or officials have been charged in connection with the violence, though several Red Shirt leaders and followers have been charged and in several cases convicted.

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