Witnesses: Soldiers Opened Fire at Wat Pathum on 19 May 2010
On 13 Dec, South Bangkok Criminal Court held witness hearings in the inquest into the deaths of six people who were killed at Pathum Wanaram Temple near Ratchaprasong intersection after the dispersal of the red-shirt protests on 19 May 2010.
The six dead were Suwan Sriraksa, 30, a farmer; Atthachai Chumchan, 28, a law graduate from Ramkhamhaeng University; Mongkhon Khemthong, 36, a rescue volunteer of the Po Tek Tueng Foundation; Rop Suksathit, 66, an airport taxi driver; Kamonkade Akkahad, 25, a volunteer paramedic; and Akharadet Khankaew, an employee.
The public prosecutor brought three witnesses to testify, including Narongsak Singmae, Tibet Puengkhunthod, and Natthathida Meewangpla.
Narongsak testified that he had been staying in a tent inside the temple since 14 April 2010. On 19 May 2010, after the UDD leaders announced the cancellation of the protests, many people came to the temple as it had been declared a sanctuary.
At 5 pm, when he was taking a rest near the temple gate, some people walked past him and told him that soldiers had already come. He thought that as the temple had been declared a sanctuary, it should have been safe. However, when looking up at the elevated tracks of the skytrain in front of the temple, he saw 6 soldiers aiming their rifles and shooting down. He was shot with 5 bullets. The first one hit a ten baht coin in the left pocket of his shirt. The second and third hit his stomach, and the fourth hit his left thigh. The fifth hit his bag. He dodged, and saw a man shot in the foot. He crawled to the back of a 10-wheeled truck and then further to a tent where he was helped by some people who put him on a deck chair and carried him to the grove at the back of the temple. He was there until about 10 pm when he was taken in an ambulance to Ramathibodi Hospital.
Tibet, a volunteer guard of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, told the court that on that day after the rallies were cancelled at about 1 pm, he walked along Rama I Rd to find a way out. When he was near Chalerm Phao intersection, he heard gunshots and then ran into the temple and stayed at the temple grove. At about 5 pm, he heard a television announcement by the spokesperson of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation who said that the protesters could go to board buses at the National Stadium. He consulted with his friend and Atthachai Chumchan, the second dead person, whom he had just met at the temple, and they agreed to walk out of the temple to get to the National Stadium.
When near the same intersection, he saw soldiers at the skytrain pillars aiming rifles at them, and they turned to run back to the temple. The soldiers shot at them. They took shelter behind a skytrain pillar in the middle of the road in front of the temple. Once the gunfire ceased, he led his friends to run back into the temple. When he was inside, he heard someone shouting that someone had been shot, and then he saw that Atthachai was shot and had fallen on the traffic island. At that time, he only heard gunfire from the direction of the intersection. This took place at about 5.50 pm. Atthachai was then taken into the temple and received first aid.
Atthachai being shot at the traffic island. Photo by Steve Tickner (lightstalkers.org/steve_tickner)
Natthathida, a volunteer paramedic, witnessed the deaths of Kamonkade Akkahad, Akharadet Khankaew and Mongkhon Khemthong, whom she worked with on that day.
She said that she had worked in a medical tent in front of the Royal Thai Police Headquarters since 16 April 2010. On the morning of 19 May 2010, she, Kamonkade and Akharadet decided to move into the temple to provide help for those who took shelter there. Mongkhon came to help them at about 2 pm. Their tent was near the temple gate.
At about 4 pm, she heard gunfire from the direction of Chalerm Phao intersection, and people on Rama I Rd ran into the temple. She saw Atthachai shot and fall at the traffic island. He stood up and ran, but fell at the temple gate.
Atthachai receiving first aid. Mongkhon (right), a rescue volunteer, was shot and killed not long afterwards. Photo by Steve Tickner (lightstalkers.org/steve_tickner)
Later, she and her colleagues including Kamonkade, Akharadet and Mongkhon decided to move to the temple grove at the back as they thought that the front of the temple was no longer safe. When Kamonkade, Akharadet and Mongkhon were collecting their medical kits inside, there was gunfire. The witness, who was standing 5 meters away from the tent, called out for them to crouch down. When she turned her head to look at them, she saw that Kamonkade was crawling with difficulty towards a pick-up truck at the back of the tent, but could not make it and lay still. Mongkhon was motionless, but Akharadet seemed to be still moving. At that moment, no one could help because gunshots were being fired from the skytrain tracks all the time, as evident by sparks when the bullets hit iron poles, and dust blown up from the concrete floor and the holes made by the bullets. The witness took shelter behind flower pots with a foreign reporter named Andrew (last name unknown to her). The reporter was shot when he raised his knee.
Akharadet struggling in pain, Kamonkade lying dead nearby.
The witness then went to the temple grove to seek help for them. Kamonkade and Mongkhon were already dead, but Akharadet was still alive. At about 7 pm, the bodies were retrieved and Akharade was rescued, but he died about an hour later. An ambulance finally came at about 11 pm, after it had first been called at 6 pm. The witness said that if the ambulance could have come earlier, Akharadet’s life should have been saved.
She insisted to the court that during the gunfire she saw 5 soldiers in military fatigues on the skytrain tracks wearing helmets with pink stickers on the back. The soldiers were aiming their rifles into the temple. She did not see anyone firing or hear gunfire from the temple. And on that day, she, Kamonkade and Akharadet were wearing red-cross armbands, and Mongkhon was wearing the uniform of the Po Tek Tueng Foundation. According to international practice, they should have never been harmed by either side in the conflict, she said.
The next hearing will be on 20 Dec.