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Thailand 7 November 2008

Several suspects arrested for murders of two Matichon journalists but authorities asked to try harder

Reporters Without Borders hails the arrests of suspects in the fatal shootings of two provincial correspondents of the Bangkok-based daily Matichon - Jaruek Rangcharoen on 27 September in the central province of Suphan Buri and Ahiwat Chainurat on 1 August in the southern city of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

“The arrests of two suspects in each of these murders suggest that the police are making some progress,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is nonetheless vital that the authorities step up their investigations into all four of the murders of journalists that have taken place this year, in order to identify the masterminds and bring them to justice. The government must not let impunity take hold in Thailand.”

The two suspects in the Rangcharoen case, including the alleged gunman, were arrested on 1 November. One of them, 37-year-old Manit Khiewwan, has reportedly confessed to driving the motorcycle used by the gunman for the shooting and has participated in a reconstruction of the murder.

The other suspect, Kittisak Poolkerd, 40, a member of the district administrative committee of Don Chedi (in Suphan Buri province), has denied any role in the murder although Khiewwan has identified him as the gunman.

In the Chainurat investigation, police examined the contents of his computer and found information about corruption stories he was working on. Two suspects have been arrested - the alleged gunman and the person who allegedly drove the motorcycle used in the shooting. But the police claim they still do not have enough evidence to arrest any suspected masterminds.

Both Rangcharoen and Chainurat had written about local corruption.

In a 15 October editorial about the two murders, Matichon deputy editor Tawesak Bhutton wrote: “The murders of these two journalists in such a short space of time pose a challenge to the state and a grave threat to media freedom (...) It is perhaps a sign that the country is heading toward dark times.”

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