Italian Photographer's Death Probed Thai Army Alleged to Have Targeted Journalists in 2010 Protests

Fabio Polenghi, the Italian news photographer killed in Bangkok in May 2010 during the so-called Red-Shirt protests, was shot in the back, an autopsy has confirmed. His sister Elisabetta and a Canadian lawyer believe he was killed by an army bullet and say they have witness testimony that soldiers were ordered to fire on journalists.
A potrait of slain Italian photograher Fabio Polenghi is displayed at his funeral at a temple in Bangkok in May 2010.

A potrait of slain Italian photograher Fabio Polenghi is displayed at his funeral at a temple in Bangkok in May 2010.

Foto: MANAN VATSYAYANA/ AFP

An autopsy of Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi, who was killed  in Bangkok on May 19, 2010 during the so-called Red-Shirt protests against the Democrat Party-led government, has confirmed suspicions that he was shot in the back.

Polenghi, a regular contributor to SPIEGEL, was shot as he ran from advancing soldiers. His sister, Elisabetta Polenghi, says she is certain it was an army bullet that killed him by tearing through his heart, lung and liver. Enlisting the help of the Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam, she has been trying to determine the exact circumstances  of her brother's death in Bangkok.

Orders to Target Journalists

"We have statements from witnesses in the army who say there were orders to specifically target journalists," Amsterdam says.

There were allegedly also orders to confiscate any press materials. As Polenghi lay dying, his camera was stolen from him. The scene was captured by other photographers present. Amsterdam is demanding that police investigate the case.

Newly uncovered documents show that the orders to fight the mostly unarmed opposition protesters came from military leaders and politicians.

On that fateful day in May, the papers reveal, the army leadership ordered that snipers be stationed on "all the tall buildings around Lumphini Park." The "use of weapons to protect oneself and maintain the peace" was also explicitly permitted. The corresponding orders bear the signature not only of then-army chief Anupong Paochinda, but also of the deputy prime minister at the time.

SPIEGEL