Thailand To Pay Journalist Victims Of Violence

Published March 7, 2012 10:18AM (EST)

BANGKOK (AP) — Local and foreign journalists including a Japanese TV cameraman who died during a street battle in Bangkok are among more than 2,000 victims of political violence who are eligible for compensation from the Thai government.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she will probably not have time to meet with the family of Reuters cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto during a visit to Japan on Wednesday but will issue a letter of condolence to them.

Muramoto was fatally shot on April 10, 2010, as troops faced armed resistance as they tried to clear a crowd of anti-government demonstrators. Another foreign journalist, Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi, was killed a month later. A government investigation failed to identify the perpetrators. Several other foreign and Thai journalists were seriously wounded that year.

The government approved a budget of 2 billion baht ($65 million) on Tuesday to compensate the victims of violence from 2005 to 2010 linked to the ouster of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.

The families of about 100 people who were killed will receive about 7.5 million baht ($250,000) each, and more than 2,000 who suffered injuries will receive as much as 4.5 million baht ($150,000) each.

Thaksin, Yingluck's older brother, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption and disrespect for the monarchy.

His ouster triggered conflicts between his supporters and opponents, resulting in increasingly aggressive protests which reached a peak in March-May 2010, when about 90 people were killed in Bangkok as pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" faced off against security forces.

Chaiwat Pumpuang, 47, an injured photographer for The Nation newspaper, said the financial compensation is inadequate. He was shot, apparently by soldiers, in a May 2010 standoff.

He said his medical costs, paid in part by the company, have totaled more than 2 million baht ($67,000) in the past two years. He said his right leg has almost recovered since his latest operation in January, but will take more time to regain full strength.

"I can't work and can't even do simple chores in the house like I used to," he said. "I look at my fellow photographers and see them running in the field and enjoying their work, and I only wish I were out there.

"While I appreciate the money, I would rather see the government talk to those of us who have been affected. Ask us how they can help. The last government and this government never came to me."

Nelson Rand, a Canadian who was working for the France 24 video news network when he was shot in May 2010, also apparently by soldiers, welcomed the settlement.

"I think it is a positive step taken by the government, which has included both sides of Thailand's political divide," he said. "I think it shows the sincerity of the government in moving forward and trying to achieve national reconciliation."

By Salon Staff

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