New finding on cameraman's death during Thai protests

By Vaudine England
BBC News, Bangkok

Image caption,
Japanese cameraman Hiro Muramoto was 43 when he was killed in Bangkok

Investigators in Thailand have reversed an earlier finding into the killing of a Reuters cameraman during red-shirt anti government protests last April.

Officials from the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) now say Hiro Muramoto was shot by an AK47, a gun not used by Thai soldiers.

An earlier leaked report blamed the military for shooting the cameraman.

Critics say the investigations into how 89 people died in last year's protests have been hurt by interference.

Hiro Muramoto, a Japanese cameraman working for Reuters, was killed on 10 April last year.

Thai soldiers were trying to clear many thousands of anti-government protesters, known as red-shirts, from the streets of Bangkok.

They failed - five soldiers died in the attempt and 20 civilians.

Mr Muramoto died from a bullet through his chest.

An earlier finding by the DSI had concluded this was fired by an M16 from an army-held position that night. Witnesses from the scene agreed.

The military was unhappy with that finding and army sources have told reporters that a military officer was assigned to help the DSI's investigation.

The result is this new finding - that an AK47 fired the deadly shot, and that soldiers that night were not using AK47s.

However, a DSI source told the BBC that the latest finding resulted from a fresh look only at the photos of the wounds suffered by Mr Muramoto.

The department says its investigations are continuing.

Probe 'blocked'

Reuters has noted what it called the apparent contradiction between the earlier and later reports.

Editor in chief Stephen Adler said it was imperative that full transparency be brought to the investigation.

"We call on the Thai government to take the investigation forward," he said.

Critics have noted that the problems besetting the inquiry into this one death are multiplied across all 89 deaths.

Fewer than 20 cases have been resolved so far - even those results have sparked controversy.

They have mostly been blamed on unknown individuals, or on a group known here as black-shirts - a shadowy paramilitary group allegedly linked to a radical wing of the red-shirt movement.

An independent fact-finding commission says its work has been blocked repeatedly by the refusal of police and military witnesses to appear before it.

No cases have been brought to trial.

The government says it is letting the judicial process take its course.

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