Rights Group Says Thailand Murdered Civilians, Urges Investigation

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A year after a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bangkok that killed at least 90 people, not a single official has been charged. Now, Human Rights Watch, an influential American NGO, says they’ve collected evidence that government snipers targeted civilians, including unarmed medical personnel. Their claims are laid out in a 194-page report, ‘Descent Into Chaos,’ that was released yesterday. Here are some of their findings, courtesy of the Times:

At a news conference [in Bangkok], the New York-based group’s Asia director, Brad Adams, displayed video clips that he said showed at least one sniper in military uniform, as well as figures on an elevated train track, whose presence he said contradicted the government assertions that no soldiers had been deployed there.

The use of snipers has been one of the contentious elements of debate over the events that convulsed Bangkok with violence. The government has insisted that it did not deploy snipers.

But the report said Human Rights Watch had gathered evidence that “several unarmed protesters, medical volunteers and bystanders were killed with single shots to the head, suggesting the use of snipers and high-powered scopes.”

The report also criticizes some of the opposition, or ‘Red Shirt,’ leaders for calling for the use of violence and supporting shadowy militants dressed in black. Adams and HRW urged the government to investigate “both sides” of the incident and prosecute those responsible.

That may be easier said that done given the Thai prime minster’s tenuous grip on power, Adams admits. “For a long time, the question has been not whether he is willing but whether he is able to assert government control over the military,” he told the paper. “The evidence has been increasingly pointing to the fact that the civilian government does not control the military.”

Thani Thongphakdi, a spokesman for Thailand’s Foreign Ministry defends the government, reports the Nation, an English-language newspaper.  “The events that occurred were very chaotic,” he said. “And, there were a number of cases where it is unclear, both from witnesses account as well as from forensic evidence, as to the people behind the various deaths and injuries.” The government’s investigation is “ongoing” he said.

The report comes at a delicate time. In April, Thailand and Cambodia fought, again, over their disputed border. And the divisions at the heart of last year’s protests remain.  A year to the day after the stand-off in Bangkok, Prime Minister Abhisit announced he will dissolve parliament this spring, paving the way for an election. But, as TIME Contributor Robert Horn observed in March, an election, alone, won’t heal Thailand’s wounds. A government investigation won’t either — but it just might help.

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