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Thai army behind protest death: inquest

The Thai military shot and killed a taxi driver during 2010 'Red Shirt' rallies, an inquest found yesterday, in the first ever ruling on deaths during the country's worst political violence in decades.

BANGKOK // The Thai military shot and killed a taxi driver during 2010 "Red Shirt" rallies, an inquest found yesterday, in the first ever ruling on deaths during the country's worst political violence in decades.

Phan Kamkong, 43, was caught in crossfire when he ran out of a Bangkok apartment block to see what was happening after soldiers shot at a minibus that had strayed into an area under army control, a Thai criminal court found.

"He was killed by gunfire from weapons of military personnel who fired at a van which drove into a restricted area," said judge Jitakorn Patanasiri, adding the troops were on duty and following orders at the time.

The inquest was to judge the facts of the May 15, 2010 incident and is not charged with apportioning criminal responsibility for the killing.

More than 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed and nearly 1,900 were wounded in street clashes and a military crackdown on the opposition rallies, which drew about 100,000 "Red Shirt" demonstrators at their peak.

The violence highlighted Thailand's bitter political divides and pitted Red Shirt supporters of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra against the Bangkok-based elite and military.

No prosecutions have been made over the unrest, which occurred under a previous establishment-backed government that was swept from power by the Red-allied party of Thaksin's sister Yingluck.

The court heard that Phan had been staying at the apartment block with a friend, who was a security guard there, as he waited for his taxi to be repaired.

"He never attended the protest, he worked as a taxi driver," said his wife Noochit Kamkong, 42.

Forensic ballistics experts told the court that the bullet that killed Phan was the same as the ones used to shoot at the van, which the army has accepted firing at.

The court acknowledged that there had been conflicts between the testimony of civilian and army witnesses to the event.

Military personnel said the van driver ignored instructions to stop and soldiers opened fire because of fears over a potential car bomb.

In his testimony to the court, the van driver said he had been dropping off guests at a hotel in the Thai capital and had got lost trying to get home.

"There is no report of a gunfight between other groups and military personnel," Mr Jitakorn said.