Reuters: Thailand says troops may have killed journalist

New York, December 10, 2010–Investigators in Thailand now believe that troops may have been responsible for the shooting death of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto, at left, on April 10, according to a leaked preliminary state probe by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Reuters reported from Bangkok today.
Thai government investigators said in the report that the death of Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national based in Tokyo, “was caused by a high-velocity bullet as gunfire flashed from the direction of soldiers.” Thailand’s government has not released the report into Muramoto’s death despite intense diplomatic pressure from Japan.

CPJ’s July 2010 special investigation of the killings of Muramoto and Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi, on May 19, found that “that both security forces and protesters engaged in reckless behavior.”

According to the leaked documents, “the Thai military played a larger role in the killing of civilians during political unrest in Bangkok this year than officials have acknowledged,” Reuters reported. Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger called for the immediate public release of the full report. “The Thai authorities owe it to Hiro’s family to reveal exactly how this tragedy happened and who was responsible,” Schlesinger said.

“We join with Reuters in calling for full public disclosure of the report and any other knowledge the government has of the attacks on media in Thailand,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “We note with concern that while the death of Hiro Muramoto has been addressed to some extent, we still have no explanation from the government about the death of Fabio Polenghi or the gunshot wounds of at least seven other journalists, foreign and local, who covered the civil disruption.”

In a June 7 letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, CPJ called for an independent investigation into Muramoto’s death and the killing of Polenghi, who was fatally shot in the abdomen while covering the government’s crackdown on protesters. Thai security forces and antigovernment protesters clashed in a series of armed confrontations in April and May. At least 90 people were killed and more than 1,800 injured in the violence, some of the worst civil strife to hit Thailand since troops opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1992.