Provincial journalist shot dead

New York, February 15, 2005—Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Pongkiat Saetang, editor of the bimonthly newspaper Had Yai Post, near a market in Had Yai, in southern Thailand’s Songkhla Province yesterday. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating to determine whether he was killed for his journalistic work.

Two assailants shot Pongkiat twice in the back while he was riding his motorcycle near Thungsao Market at around 8:30a.m., according to The Nation newspaper, which quoted police. The Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance reported that Pongkiat was pronounced dead on the scene, and the gunmen fled by motorcycle.

Pongkiat, 54, was known for his outspoken commentary on local politics. His critical reporting on Had Yai politicians had prompted threatening phone calls, his wife told reporters.

Local police inspector Lt. Col. Samart Boonmee said that police had not ruled out other possible motives, including personal conflicts, according to local news reports.

The Thai Journalists Association and the Southern Journalists Association of Thailand, to which Pongkiat belonged, condemned the murder today and called on Thai national police to conduct a fair and open investigation into the case.