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Reuters' Hiro Muramoto probably shot by Thai troops - report

Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto, killed while covering political protests in Bangkok, was probably shot by Thai troops, according to a leaked report.

Muramoto, pictured filming in Bangkok shortly before he was shot, was killed by a high-velocity bullet wound to the chest while covering the “red shirt” anti-government protest movement in Bangkok's old quarter in April.

Leaked state documents seen by Reuters show the Thai military played a larger role in the killing of civilians during the two months of unrest than officials have acknowledged. 

The report quoted a witness who said Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national based in Tokyo, collapsed as gunfire flashed from the direction of soldiers. The Thai government has not released the report into his death despite intense diplomatic pressure from Japan.

Editor-in-chief David Schlesinger called for the immediate public release of the full report. “The Thai authorities owe it to Hiro's family to reveal exactly how this tragedy happened and who was responsible,” he said in a statement.

Tharit Pengdith, director general of the Department of Special Investigation, said the DSI had concluded its preliminary investigation and passed the results to the police but had not publicly disclosed the contents.

“The investigation report is a sensitive issue to talk about or to confirm its authenticity,” he said. “It’s an official secret. To confirm the authenticity of the report sent to police would affect the rights of the people whose names were in it.”

He would neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of two reports seen by Reuters but said police will now investigate the case of three people believed to have been killed by Thai special forces at a Buddhist temple designated a safe zone for women, children, the elderly and the infirm, along with three others, including Muramoto, possibly killed by troops.

The results of the police investigation will be sent to the DSI and government prosecutors.

Ninety-one people were killed and at least 1,800 were wounded during the unrest in April and May. More than 30 buildings were set on fire. It was the worst political violence in modern Thai history. ■