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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thai agency denies pressure in cameraman probe

Bangkok (ANTARA News/AFP) - A Thai government agency probing the death of a Japanese cameraman during a military crackdown on protests in Bangkok last April denied Monday it had been pressured to clear the army of responsibility.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) had earlier said government troops might have shot Hiroyuki Muramoto of the Reuters news agency, and forwarded the case to metropolitan police for further investigation. But DSI chief Tharit Pengdit told AFP on Sunday: "The forensic reports from a respected doctor found that the AK-47 caused the death of the Japanese cameraman.

The Thai army does not use this kind of weapon." Tharit told reporters on Monday that neither the government nor the military had interfered in the probe. "There`s no pressure," he told reporters. "I can confirm that we are doing our jobs as normal." He said that the initial conclusion that Muramoto might have been killed by the military was based on a witness account from a policeman, who said the shot had come from an area where there were both soldiers and protesters.

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported Sunday "claims that the army chief of staff paid the DSI head a visit to complain about an initial department finding" that said soldiers should be blamed for the death. Reuters called for clarification. "The apparent contradiction between the preliminary investigation and these reports makes full transparency about the process and the findings imperative," Stephen Adler, editor-in-chief of Reuters News, said in a statement. Muramoto, 43, was one of two foreign cameramen killed during the unrest in April and May. More than 90 people -- mostly civilians -- died in the clashes between troops and protesters.

Both sides accused each other of using live ammunition. A police forensic expert, Amporn Charuchinda, told reporters the autopsy report and pictures suggested that Muramoto was killed by a bullet with a diameter of at least seven millimetres, which could have come from an AK-47. The Japanese embassy declined to comment on the new conclusion.

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