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33 people injured and 5 arrested in last night’s protests near the Grand Palace in Bangkok

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A wall of Riot Police and 2 water cannons advance on protesters - Free Youth

33 people, including protesters and attending police, ended up casualties of last evening’s anti-government protests according to Erawan Medical Centre. The protest, reacting to the seizure of books discussing the Thai Monarchy and including pro-democracy speeches from last year, started off in Sanam Luang during the afternoon.

But it quickly escalated  after police erected a wall of shipping containers preventing protesters access to the road to the Grand Palace. During the ensuing scuffles, police threatened protesters with the high-power water cannon truck, used tear gas and rubber bullets, and chased down individual protesters, leading to at least 5 arrests.

You can watch Free Youth’s video of the aftermath of the protest HERE.

The events, captured and broadcast in real time on social media, portrayed an undisciplined display of farrago, from both sides. Fires were lit along the road by protesters and police were seen stomping on protesters on the ground. Other protesters tried to flee on their motorbikes but abandoned them and fled on foot. In some cases the police targeted particular protesters and chased them down streets, resulting in at least 20 protesters being arrested, according to police.

Charges have already been laid, in some cases, relating to breaking rules about gathering of crowds during the emergency decree and the lese majeste law, when it’s considered a crime for insulting or defaming the Thai royal family. Portraits of HM The King were defaced as part of the evening’s protests. Estimates of the protest numbers vary, but averaged around 1,000 people.

Both the police and the protesters maintain the violence started from the other side.

The protest movement, made up of several student and university protest sub sets, has been the first to raise the uncomfortable (for Thais) topic of reforming the monarchy and the constitution that enshrines the monarch as the Head of State. Young Thais, now able to watch international commentary, clips and videos openly critical of the Thai monarch, started the movement in July 2020 when a 10 point manifesto was first read out at a protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. Since then, some 7 protest leaders are now languishing in the Bangkok Remand Centre and Thon Buri prison on charges relating to the organisation of the protests and the criticism of the Thai monarchy.

The well-organised protests of the second half of 2020, often second guessing police and able to switch locations in real time, have now become less well-attended and the leadership group – police would describe them as ring leaders – have now been, at least temporarily, silenced by their detention awaiting trial.

One of the groups spearheading yesterday’s protests were the Redem group.

Earlier yesterday, Samesky Publishing was raided where the Redem group had stored books about the Thai monarchy. Police seized the books, “Monarchy and Thai Society”, critical of the current monarch and calling for constitutional limitation of the powers of the Thai royal family.

Police say they seized around 200 copies of the controversial books. But there were still plenty of the books available at the rally later in the day in Sanam Luang park, displayed for the media and free for people to take. Redem claimed they had 10,000 copies for people to read. The book included speeches from earlier pro-democracy rallies in 2020 and photographs from the protests. Redem also posted a PDF version of the book for anyone to download. Police claimed that it could be a crime to have a copy of the book in your possession.

The rally in Sanam Luang had been vocal, but peaceful, but when some protesters started to remove the stack of shipping containers between them and the Grand Palace, armed riot-control officers and the water cannon were waiting. But things turned ugly, quickly, as police, initially firing the water cannon into the air as a warning, advanced, in lines spanning the entire road, on the protesters.

SOURCES: Free Youth | Bangkok Post

 

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