Senior Narathiwat provincial administrators and high-ranking military and police officers expressed their regrets over the shooting of Muhammad Asuwan Sorhor in Si Sakhon district Aug 21. During a news conference at the Narathiwat police headquarters, they attempted to clarify the circumstances of the innocent teenager's death and subsequent attempt to portray him falsely as an armed insurgent.
The boy, a native of Lamphu sub-district in Muang Narathiwat district, was shot after dark on a road in front of a paramilitary ranger base. Volunteers stationed there were responding to what they wrongly believed was a gun assault on the base by seven youths on four motorcycles. No bullets were, in fact, found to have been fired at buildings there.
Maj Gen Singhasak Uthaimongkhol, commander of the Narathiwat ad hoc unit, said paramilitaries already had been on alert due to an earlier warning of a possible attack. So when, about 8:20pm, they heard gunshots, they reacted.
Just before the shots rang out, the youths on motorbikes had ridden past the base. After the gunfire, they quickly turned around and sped past again.
Paramilitary volunteer Ekapoj Samansuan fired in the direction of the motorcycles, striking Sorhor in the back of the neck and killing him instantly, the provincial police chief said. However, neither the guards nor residents checked the area until later. The boy's body was found about 100 metres from the base, Narathiwat police chief Pol Maj Gen Pathanawuth Ankhanawin said.
Unbeknownst to others at the time, Mr Ekapoj had placed his 11mm handgun beside the dead boy to make it appear that he was an insurgent and the gunman who had fired at the base, Pol Maj Gen Pathanawuth said.
Mr Ekapoj was charged with premeditated murder, illegal firearms possession and falsifying evidence. However, Col Korakot Phuchote, commander of the 49th ad hoc paramilitary unit to which Mr Ekapoj was attached, said the volunteer had not intended to kill the boy and had simply fired on instinct.
Nonetheless, he apologised for the incident and promised not to protect Mr Ekapoj from prosecution. He also donated 50,000 baht to the boy's family for funeral expresses and promised to care for Sorhor's three younger brothers.
The Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre paid 500,000 baht in compensation for the death to the boy's family.
Narathiwat deputy governor Suphanat Siranthawineti also vowed that authorities would treat both sides fairly, although he too said Mr Ekapoj was considered to have been doing his duty in the face of a perceived gun attack on his base.
Col Korakot said that the incident had not affected morale at the paramilitary base, but officers were ordered to prevent any such tragedies in from recurring.