The Thai police claim that their use of enhanced crowd control measures, including water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets, during Tuesday’s anti-establishment protest in Bangkok was necessary and in line with standard practices, because hardcore elements among the protesters turned violent and used explosives. 48 people, including 15 minors, were arrested.
A police investigation into the violent clashes between the protesters and crowd control police is underway. One police officer was shot in the leg and eight other officers were injured by explosives and other objects hurled at them during the protest, Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra said today (Wednesday).
Charges will include violation of the Emergency Decree’s gathering ban, arson, and physical assault of police, he said.
The protest, led by the “United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration”, called on the government to bring the currently raging COVID-19 pandemic under control, solve economic problems stemming from the spread of the virus and government’s containment measures, revoke the existing Constitution, which was drafted by the previous military regime, and reform the military, courts and the monarchy.
During the “car-mob” demonstrations yesterday, protesters moved from the Ratchaprasong and Asoke intersections to Sino-Thai Tower and Rama 9 Road, where cabinet member Thammanat Prompao’s residence is located, to Din Daeng intersection and to the Victory Monument.
Hard core elements turned violent and the clashes dragged on late into the night, despite the leaders of the Thammasat group calling for an immediate end to the protest, as “ping pong” bombs, bricks and other hard objects were being thrown, according to police.
The protesters also burnt police booths at Din Daeng and Phayathai police stations, which prompted the police to enhance their crowd control measures.
Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau Pol Maj-Gen Piya Tavichai insisted yesterday that those who caused damage will be punished and charged with other offenses, such as illegal public assembly of more than 10 people and physical assaults of police officers.
He also mentioned the Civil Court’s order regarding the use of rubber bullets and teargas, which did not forbid the use of such weapons, but required police to be more careful. Some videos circulated online have shown, however, that some officers engaged in kicking those in the protest and hitting at least one occupied car.
Regarding the use of firecrackers during the protests, he said that the police already know where such items are being produced and they are being investigated. So far, police have confiscated 122 motorcycles in relation to the protests.
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