Dutch journalist Michel Maas took the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the press on a tour in Ratchaprasong on Wednesday, showing where he was shot by the military on the morning of May 19th 2010.
Michel was in Thailand reporting on the military crackdown of Red Shirt protests for Netherlands Radio Worldwide and the Volkskrant newspaper. He was with a group of journalists on Ratchadamri Road when the army suddenly started shooting indiscriminately at the crowd of protesters.
He was shot in the shoulder and, shortly afterwards, was rushed to the nearby Police General Hospital from where he resumed his broadcast.
On Wednesday he spoke to reporters and the DSI on the spot where he was shot two years ago.
Everybody started taking cover because the bullets came really close, they were not fired up in the air but they just came at us. At some point, everybody started running. I started running too and, around this point where we are now, I caught a bullet in the back. Two people, who saw that I got shot, took me by the arms and put me on a motorcycle and drove me to the police hospital.
In response to allegations that there were armed “men in black” in the area, he told reporters:
No, I didn’t see any. I heard the stories too. I was looking around and checking for people running around with sniper rifles or any kind of rifles. All I saw were people with sticks and small Molotov cocktails which couldn’t do much harm, all hand-made, not really impressive. The only weapon was a revolver that looked about 60 years old, or home-made, again, not very impressive. It was the only gun I saw in the Red Shirt camp.
The UDD leadership welcomes Michel’s bravery in speaking out about the events in 2010. Chairwoman Thida said:
We thank Michel Maas for daring to speak the truth. We are happy that the truth is coming out, as this will help all Thai people. We must have the truth first, and then justice, in order for reconciliation to be possible.
In an interview with Thai Red Shirts (TRS), Michel reaffirmed:
I have very little doubt in my mind who shot me because the bullet, that I still have, came from an M16 and, according to people who know, the experts say it was a military gun. What bothers me is that this bullet appears to be the only surviving bullet from the whole operation. It’s incredible. The bullet that killed Fabio is gone.
TRS asked him whether he is hopeful about the outcome of the investigation of the crackdown. He responded:
I’m hopeful that it will be established who was shooting that day. At least the army will have to admit that they fired some shots. They might say that stray bullets hit people, but it will be a step forward from the blatant denial. I can say with 100% confidence that the military shot at protesters that day. I can’t say that they were the only ones shooting, but they were the only ones I saw with my own eyes.
When asked whether he had felt safe as a foreign journalist in Bangkok before this incident. Michel answered:
A little bit. But I made the mistake of believing in reason. I figured, if the military comes in, what would you expect? You’d expect loudspeakers, calls for people to surrender, tear gas, shots in the air, maybe rubber bullets, but there was none of that. Nobody really expected anything until the bullets started flying at chest level for me, which is probably head level for the average Thai. You could here the bullets whistling by, that’s when you know they’re very close. It’s not a nice sound.
Michel’s colleague, photographer Fabio Polenghi, was shot and killed fifteen minutes later in the same spot where Michel was shot. Michel is in touch with Fabio’s sister, Isa Polenghi, and has promised her to testify if it could help her find justice for the death of her brother.
When asked whether he knew Fabio, Michel responded:
No, but you feel kind of related when you’re in the same line of work. And hit by the same bullet. I was simply luckier.
Michel recalls being shot while live on Dutch radio:
I was on live radio when I got shot. I yelled “I’m hit, I’m hit” and then the line got cut. It was perfect radio. The military had scrambled the mobile signal so it was difficult to call people and let them know that I was ok. But 25 minutes later I was back on live radio letting everybody know that I was ok.
For the audio recording of Michel’s live radio broadcast when he was shot, click here.
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