Thai authorities try to ‘buy’ silence of slain journalist’s sister

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 3, 2010

Fabio Polenghi was one of two foreign journalists killed during the anti-government protests earlier this year. The Italian was gunned down during the military crackdown on the protest site on May 19. The circumstances of his deaths are officially still unknown yet and considering that the official investigations are sluggish and generally much left to be desired, we are not getting to know the truth anytime soon.

Fabio’s sister Elisabetta was in Thailand shortly after his death to investigate the circumstances of the death of her brother, but as expected the Thai authorities were not really helpful.

This week, the Thai Embassy in Rome sent an invitation to Elisabetta to celebrate the king’s birthday at the embassy – that’s it, just an invitation! No letter, no further sign of any trace of sensitivity.

Her response was expected:

“Certainly, the institutions in Thailand have made offers of financial compensation as you well know,” Polenghi said in the letter to Somsakdi Suriyawongse, Thailand’s ambassador in Rome. She described those offers as “absolutely inappropriate” and said “we believe it is an obvious attempt to close our mouths and pay back the dignity of our Fabio with a little money”. (…)

Polenghi’s letter, sent in response to an invitation to celebrate the December 5 birthday of Thailand’s king Bhumibol Adulyadej, said the authorities had “not the slightest awareness of the seriousness of the situation” for her family.

Sister of Italian killed in Thai protests slams money offer“, AFP, December 3, 2010

We have obtained the full letter to the ambassador and here are more excerpts (emphasis by me):

It is a bitter reality, again compounded by your invitation which clearly indicates that there is not the slightest awareness of the seriousness of the situation, which I and my family are living. After more than six months, the circumstances of Fabio’s death and the results of the investigations, carried out by the Thai authorities, have not yet been made known to us. The “efforts” of the Thai authorities, in this sense, can certainly not be considered satisfactory or exhaustive.

How can we participate in your joy, with all due respect, having still not received answers regarding the personal effects of Fabio … Nor have we received a response regarding the request to place a plaque in memory of Fabio at the place where he was killed… Quite frankly, we would have expected a reply from you on this latter point if only for reasons of courtesy towards the family.

The last paragraph is probably the strongest part of the letter. Unfortunately, given the legal circumstance, the implication is that problematic that we cannot quote it. But the full article above has quoted parts of it.

It is quite obvious what the Thai authorities least want are more burning question about the deaths during the protests, especially not from outside. The invitation is a cruel and simply cynical act of insensitivity, believing in the good faith that people can be wooed in and just simply forget about it, no matter how tragic. But unlike what most of the Thai seniority like to believe, you cannot force peace by forgetting and letting things fade away.

I can only encourage the Polenghi family not to loose faith in the truth and not be exhausted by the soothing, innocent-looking ‘nonthingness’ of the Thai authorities.

h/t to @aleursic


2 thoughts on “Thai authorities try to ‘buy’ silence of slain journalist’s sister

  1. I think you meant the anti-penultimate, or third from last, paragraph as being ‘sensitive’.

    Certainly you are imagining persecution under the much used and abused lèse majesté for even mentioning the paragraph, such is the abject and cowed state of Thais and Thailand under the authoritarian regime it is now suffering.

    But Elisabetta Polenghi’s comments in that paragraph were heart-felt commiseration with HM King Bhumipol Adulyadej for the anguish he must feel on this birthday, so late in his reign, to have seen his subjects and international journalists gunned down in the streets of the kingdom’s capital, yet again; and again, The Regime refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

    It is The Regime that is rightfully lambasted in that paragraph, certainly not HM the King. It is a measure of the instinctive fear now built into the Thai people over the course of the last 18 coups and instances of overturned law that this bunch has now managed to convince the Thai people that criticism of The Regime itself is an act of lèse majesté.

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