In Polenghi case, autopsy shared but more needed

By Shawn W. Crispin/CPJ Senior Southeast Asia Representative on August 2, 2010 1:59 PM ET

A memorial to Polenghi (Reuters)

Two days before Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi was fatally shot while covering widespread civil unrest in the streets of Bangkok, he posted a short message to his Facebook page: “Every day is a gift, so do your best,” he wrote in a message made more poignant by his death on May 19. 

More than two months later, however, it’s not clear that Thai authorities are doing their best to solve the case and bring the perpetrators to justice. 

His sister, Elisabetta Polenghi, expressed those concerns at a press conference on Friday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok. CPJ shared the stage to present our new special report, “In Thailand unrest, journalists under fire,” which probes a series of recent deaths and injuries to journalists in Thailand, including the fatal shooting of Polenghi.

Among other recommendations, CPJ called on the Thai government to cooperate with independent investigators and disclose the results of official autopsies and other forensic evidence. There was no official government response to our findings, although authorities apparently heeded one CPJ recommendation.

On Thursday, the day the report was issued, police with the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) met privately with Elisabetta Polenghi and shared with her for the first time the official autopsy results in her brother’s case. The exact location of Polenghi’s wounds could provide clues as to whether he was shot by street-level soldiers or protesters positioned in nearby buildings.

At the press conference, Elisabetta Polenghi did not disclose information from the autopsy and emphasized that the goal of her Italian Embassy-arranged meeting was “collaboration” and to ensure that official investigations were “moving in the right direction.” In particular, she urged DSI investigators to make a priority of recovering Polenghi’s missing camera and telephone, both for forensic and sentimental reasons.

Elisabetta Polenghi said she understood that the DSI investigation "could take years," but said if there weren't any "breakthroughs" within the next couple of months that she would likely return to Thailand to press her concerns again.


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