Thai girl 'unintentionally' hit in shootout with dealers

Police Lance Corporal Panonthorn Chaiyatham yesterday apologises to the mother of Anatta Songrat.
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

The bullet which wounded a 16-year-old student while she travelled in a car driven by her mother in Bangkok this week is likely to have come from the gun of a policeman, as he and his team confronted drug dealers in Bangkok.

After media reports on Thursday about the shooting, Lance Corporal Panonthorn Chaiyatham confessed to his superior that he may have unintentionally shot Anatta Songrat.

Panonthorn and four colleagues had engaged drug dealers at Suan Siam Road when the car carrying the student passed, Maj-General Sanit Mahathavorn, commander of the Metropolitan Police, said.

Anatta was shot in the shoulder and admitted to a hospital nearby.

She is in a stable condition but the bullet has not yet been removed.

"Basically, we don't know exactly whether the bullet in the girl's body was shot from the policeman's gun. To be fair for all, we need to get it out and compare it with the pistol in question," Sanit said.

"If the bullet matches the gun, we would have to indict Panonthorn in accordance with the law."

Panonthorn said he regretted what happened and apologised to the student and her family.

He plans to visit the girl at hospital to show his good will.

"I needed to fire the gun to defend myself and protect the team at the scene as the drug gangsters fired their arms at us first," he told a press conference yesterday.

"If the bullet belongs to my gun, I will take responsibility."

Deputy national police chief General Pongsapat Pongcharoen said police would conduct an investigation so there was justice for all concerned parties.

"At this stage we know only that police officer Panonthorn fired his gun during the gunfire exchange with the gangsters but we don't know whose bullet hurt the student," he said.

Captain Wichakorn Bounsiri, of the counter-narcotics team in question, said Panonthorn fired to defend his team.

"Two of the drug dealers on a motorbike were set up to sell narcotics to police in a plot to arrest them. As we saw a man pull out a gun, I shouted to my men to take them and Panonthorn fired to cover our team," Wichakorn said at the press conference.

Anatta's mother thanked the National Police Office for taking responsibility. She said she was unsure whether to file a lawsuit against police.