Tue, Aug 24, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Japanese FM pays respects to slain reporter in Thailand

AFP , BANGKOK

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada laid flowers yesterday at the site where a Japanese cameraman was shot dead in April during violent street clashes between troops and opposition demonstrators.

Okada bowed in silence at the spot in Bangkok where Hiroyuki Muramoto was shot in the chest by an unknown gunman while covering the political unrest involving anti-government “Red Shirt” protesters and soldiers.

Japan’s top diplomat was expected to press the Thai government for information about the killing during talks later yesterday with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Muramoto, 43, was one of two foreign cameramen killed during the unrest in April and May. They were among 91 people — mostly civilians — who died in the clashes. Both sides accused each other of using live ammunition.

In a report last month, the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders called on Thai authorities to publish final reports on the death of Muramoto and Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi “as soon as possible.” It accused the army of failing to act with the “required restraint” to protect members of the media.

Thai officials said yesterday they had not yet concluded their investigation into the journalists’ deaths.

“For the case of the Italian photographer, initially we can say that he was shot from the front to back, and the bullet passed through [him],” Police Colonel Naras Savestanan told a news conference.

“We cannot identify the type of bullet or weapon that caused his death,” said Naras, the deputy ­director-general of the Department of Special Investigation, which is investigating the killings.

He said that the investigation was proving difficult because most of the victims were quickly taken from the place they were shot to hospital for treatment.

Polenghi, a freelance photographer and documentary maker, was shot while covering the military offensive in May that ended the Red Shirt protests.

Naras said that 209 suspects were still being detained in connection with the mass demonstrations by the Red Shirts, who were demanding immediate elections they hoped would replace a government they view as elitist and undemocratic.

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