The Metropolitan Police Bureau has defended its officers amid strong opposition to actions taken against protesters in Bangkok on Saturday. Clashes between police and pro-democracy activists have left at least 33 people injured, including 13 police officers and 3 journalists. According to a Bangkok Post report, a news reporter from Channel 8 TV was injured after being struck by a rubber bullet.
Police arrested at least 20 people on various charges, from violating a ban on mass gatherings to alleged lèse-majesté offences. A spokesman for the MPB says officers’ use of riot control equipment such as rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon, and batons was in line with international guidelines.
“Violence originated from the protesters’ side and police have to defend the law and protect state assets.”
The Bangkok Post reports that criticism of the police escalated when a video clip showing officers chasing protesters and hitting them with batons went viral. It’s understood the video was filmed at the Chaloem Wanchat Bridge in the Banglamphu area of the capital, with 8 people subsequently arrested. There are reports that a protester was allegedly hit by officers after he’d already fallen down. Some activists abandoned their motorbikes as they fled, while others hid in a restaurant when police deployed tear gas.
Police say they were forced to deploy the tear gas after having Molotov cocktails thrown at them by protesters. However, one activist, named in the Bangkok Post report as 27 year old Rukchanok Srinork, disputes the police’s version of the story, accusing them of starting the violence.
“Violence came from them (police) as they used tear gas and water cannons before protesters did anything. They have helmets, shields, crowd control training. If there is a stone thrown, raise your shields.”
Meanwhile, academic Prinya Thaewanarumitkul from Thammasat University describes the use of rubber bullets by police as, “problematic”, accusing officers of violating guidelines issued by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“According to the OHCHR guideline, guns must be aimed below the abdomen or the legs, but as far as I can see, the guns were parallel to the ground which was unlawful as it could cause people (to lose their) lives. They also deployed the weapons when people were about to disperse, and towards journalists.”
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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