Published on May 21, 2010 by Luke Hunt
Protests in Thailand and the bloody violence that most of us saw coming, claimed the lives of two foreign correspondents and injured a few more with the Thai government claiming victory over civilian protestors.
The dead were Japanese journalist Hiroyaki Muramoto, a TV cameraman with Thomson Reuters killed on April 10 and Italian freelance photographer Fabio Polenghi who died on May 19 from gunshot wounds.
Dutch radio and television journalist Michel Maas was injured while reporting on the violence in the Thai capital, as was Briton Andrew Buncombe and two Canadian journalists, Nelson Rand shot three times, and Chandler Vandergrift who suffered shrapnel wounds to the head.
Three Thai photographers and one reporter were also wounded.
The deaths were the highest profile killings of foreign correspondents in Thailand since the Australian cameraman Neil Davis died from shrapnel wounds inflicted during a 1985 coup.
The Thai military has been clearly irritated by some reports including one that claimed Muramoto was shot by the military.
Maas took a bullet in his right shoulder but said he was in relatively good condition. An army bullet hit him from behind as he was trying to get away.
“I really had no time to be shocked. When the army attacked I started running. I felt a hard blow but didn’t realise I had been hit by a bullet. I was given a lift to hospital on the back of a scooter,” he told Radio Netherlands.
“In the hospital I saw a dozen people with injuries worse than mine. I’ve been told my Italian colleague Fabio Polenghi was killed. He was hit in the heart and stomach.”
The Bangkok Post and The Nation English—language newspapers were forced to send home staffers and close briefly. TV station Channel 3 was the target of an arson attack which took it off the air for two days.
The April 3 to May 19 standoff and political violence that resulted as troops brought protests by anti-government Red Shirts to a violent end left at least 53 people dead and 415 injured.
The basic maths is frightenting. The casualty rate among journalists over that six week period would the put Land of Smiles up there with the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mexico.
“We have restored order in the capital of Bangkok and in the provinces of Thailand,” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said once the offensive was concluded.