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Thailand 7 June 2005

Journalist shot and wounded after investigating post-tsunami land grabs

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an attack on Manop Rattanacharungporn of the Matichon daily newspaper, who was shot and badly wounded in the leg on 1 June in the southern province of Phangnga, apparently in reprisal for his reporting on illegal land appropriations in tsuanami-hit areas.

At the same time, in a letter to justice minister Suwat Liptapanlop, the press freedom organisation hailed the measures so far taken by the Thai authorities in this case.

"The investigation under way must lead to the arrest and trial of both the perpetrators and instigators of this serious press freedom violation," Reporters Without Borders said.

Rattanacharungporn is still hospitalised as a result of the injuries he received when two men fired on him as he was driving home from his plantation at Tambon Natoey. His newspaper believes the attack was prompted by articles he wrote a month before about the illegal acquisition by criminal groups of mangrove areas belonging to the state.

The justice minister has ordered an investigation into these irregularities and he inspected the areas concerned on 5 June before visiting Rattanacharungporn in hospital. He also instructed the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) to send a team to the area to pursue the enquiries.

Reached by telephone, DSI director general Sombat Amornvivat said Rattanacharungporn is now in the witness protection programme and will be called on to testify in court. He also revealed that some of those involved in the attack have been identified although they have not yet been arrested.

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