As criticism mounts of the Thai government’s response to the deaths of two foreign newsmen during recent political violence in Bangkok, the sister of slain Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi says she will not give up the search for the truth behind her brother’s death.
“I don’t really care about how it happens, I just want to get to the bottom of things,” said Elisabetta Polenghi on Friday, speaking Italian through a translator at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok.
Isabella Polenghi, sister of slain Italian photograher Fabio Polenghi, pays her last respects at his funeral at a temple in Bangkok on May 24. (Photo: Getty Images)
“If there are no breakthroughs and there is no further information sent to us, that means that I will probably return to Thailand in the near future because as a family, it’s important for us to be close to the investigation and see that there’s something being done,” she added.
“I hope I won’t have to come back too soon and I will receive the information that I’m seeking.”
At least 90 people were killed and 1,800 injured in April and May when a political struggle turned violent and troops clashed with anti-government “Red Shirt” protesters. Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto was also killed during the battle, while nine other journalists and photographers were injured.
Fabio Polenghi was shot on May 19 despite making himself recognizable as a journalist by donning a green armband and a blue helmet with the word “Press” written front and back.
A report released on Thursday by the press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) accused the Thai government of failing to bring anyone to account for the deaths and called for transparent investigations to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The report quoted Bangkok-based documentary film maker Bradley Cox, who had been with Polenghi and was himself shot in the leg, possibly with the same bullet that claimed Polenghi’s life, saying soldiers had that morning rained bullets seemingly at random, “firing at anything or anybody.”
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government says troops fired only in self-defence. Leaders of the “Red Shirt” movement maintain that their supporters eschewed violence.
CPJ’s Asia Programme Consultant Shawn Crispin, speaking after Polenghi on Friday, said both sides in the conflict bore responsibility for the deaths and injuries.
“Our research found that contrary to government and protester groups claims of using the utmost restraint and a commitment to non-violence, that actually both sides were involved in lethal recklessness that resulted in deaths and injuries to reporters during the protest,” he said.
CPJ’s research also found that in certain instances, the authorities had, at times, obstructed private investigations into the deaths and injuries, Crispin said.
“We strongly urge the government to cooperate with these investigations and not obstruct them,” Crispin said. “Recognising that the recent deaths and injuries occurred between two and three months ago, there are still early indications of a potential official cover-up.”
Speaking at the Asean Regional Forum in Hanoi last week, Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada called on the Thai government to show itself more active in the investigation into Hiroyuki Muramoto’s death.
Meanwhile, Bangkok remains under a State of Emergency along with nine other provinces, effectively banning public gathering of more than five people in those regions.