Police and protesters clash at increasingly aggressive protests

PHOTO: Police and protesters increasingly clash in Bangkok. (via Wichan Charoenkiartpakun)

Tensions flared at today’s anti-government protests, as demonstrators had to re-route 3 times due to police pushback efforts. The original plan was to meet at the Democracy Monument at 2 pm today and march to the Grand Palace, as pro-monarchy groups called for the army to step in and fortify the historic complex they called a sacred site. But police were ready and firm, meeting protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to drive them back.

Restart Democracy, or Redem, the collection of pro-democracy groups brought together by the Free Youth movement, were set to gather, with a few hundred protesters arriving 2 hours early at noon to Democracy Monument before police closed off the area 20 minutes later and told the crowds to disperse.

At the other end of their planned march, the Grand Palace had a defence perimeter set up using shipping containers and tanker train cars supplied by the State Railway of Thailand. Police were reported to fire rubber bullets into people gathered there around 1 pm in order to clear the crowd away. Journalists just filed a lawsuit against the Royal Thai Police over their use of rubber bullets against protesters and the press. At least 2 arrests were made at that site.

Police pushed the line of frustrated protesters away from the original path to the Phan Fa Bridge where angry demonstrators used catapults and firecrackers to fight back against the police force.

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Free Youth decided to reroute after being prevented from their original path, and announced on Facebook they were meet at Government House instead. But shipping container walls were already in place there preventing the demonstration to continue. Then a truck with mounted loudspeakers announced a venue change, directing protesters to move to Victory Monument and prepare to march to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence at the 11th Infantry Regiment.

As they began their third attempt at a march, proactive police already had stacked shipping containers and barbed wire along the path to the prime minister and had barriers holding lines of crowd control police as police pushed them back towards Victory Monument.

The situation began to worsen by 3:30 pm as agitated protesters tried to move shipping containers and were met with tear gas canisters launched into the crowd at Din Daeng intersection. Police threatened rubber bullets if protesters didn’t retreat and demonstrators set fire to a police van. at 5:30 pm police made a final strong push to move crowds all the way back to the Victory Monument, using a water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets with police lining the skywalk over the area to fire down upon the crowd.

Free Youth made the call to end the rally officially at 5:30 pm but many protesters remained and clashed with police later into the night.

The ramped-up demonstrations come as the protesters’ cause gains traction with mounting frustration from more of the public about the government’s handling of Covid-19. They called for 3 goals in today’s protest – the immediate resignation of PM Prayut, a budget cut for the monarchy and military to fund Covid-19 release, and a call to move Thailand’s vaccination plans to mRNA vaccines.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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