Tuesday 1 March 2011

Fears of cover-up over shot Reuters camerman

The Committee to Protect Journalists says it is is concerned by inconsistencies in Thailand's official investigation into the killing of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto, who was shot while covering clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces last April 10 in Bangkok.

Thailand's Department of Special Investigation told reporters that its investigations showed that Muramoto was apparently not shot by security forces. The findings contradict the state agency's preliminary conclusions that the shots that hit Muramoto came from a direction where troops were positioned at the time and were fired from an M-16 assault rifle.

DSI revised its findings based on supposed evidence that Muramoto was killed by a bullet likely fired from an AK-47 assault rifle, according to DSI chief Tharith Pengdith, who was speaking at a news conference. He told reporters that soldiers were armed with different weapons, including M-16s, during suppression operations that day, according to news reports.

The local English-language Bangkok Post reported on Sunday that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Daopong Rattanasuwon visited DSI to complain about its initial findings that blamed soldiers for Muramoto's death. Tharit denied that he met with Daopong in the same news report. The Bangkok Post also reported that the Thai military has around 20,000 AK-47 assault rifles in its arsenal.

"The contradiction of the preliminary findings of the investigation into journalist Hiro Muramoto's death raises questions about the independence of the government's investigation," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "We are particularly concerned by reports that a senior military official may have pressured the DSI into censoring its initial findings."

Thomson Reuters news editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that "the apparent contradiction between the preliminary investigation and these reports makes full transparency about the process and the findings imperative."

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

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