Police authorities from the crowd control division fired water cannons against pro-democracy protesters this afternoon, November 17, after they were, according to police, attempting to destroy barbed wire fences being employed at the Kiakkai intersection near the Parliament House of Thailand.
A group of pro-democracy protesters and guards started to arrive at the intersection around 2:00 P.M. to monitor the situation around the area which was occupied by police forces, concrete barricades and barbed wire fences. Some of the protesters were seen aggressively yelling at the police and saluting with three fingers, however were not physically aggressive or violent.
Ten minutes later, volunteer guards working with the protesters then started using metal clippers to dismantle barbed wire at the barricades, attempting to get closer to the Parliament area. Police Colonel Attawit Saisueb, Deputy Chief of Metropolitan Police Division One, therefore ordered two water cannon trucks to approach the line between the riot police and the protest front-liners.
The police warned the demonstrators via loudspeaker to stop destroying the barbed wire otherwise the water cannons will be fired if the protesters did not stop within 5 minutes. Some smoke bombs were seen thrown into the police barricade while the first water cannon was shot against the protesters. Smoke bombs did appear to be thrown from either side, as the situation was quite tense with heightened emotions between both groups.
Four high-pressure water cannons were fired against the pro-democracy protesters to disperse the demonstration at this point as protesters attempted to continue to move closer to Parliament. The protest guards warned their people who did not have protection, such as raincoats or helmets, to move back for safety.
Police Colonel Attawit then reportedly ordered the force and water trucks to move away from the crowd who were requesting to stage a peaceful protest 50 meters away from the parliament, which is considered illegal under mass assembly laws according to the police.
After the clash, Police Colonel Kritsana Pattanacharoen, the deputy police spokesman, then arrived at the scene and gave a quick interview to the press that the water cannons being used the first three times did not contain any chemicals but the last shots did have some chemicals as the protesters had, according to police, continued to break through the police barricades and not listen to multiple orders to withdraw from dismantling the barricades.
According to Police Colonel Kritsana, the water cannons were being used legally and in line with regulations stated in the Assembly Act as the pro-democracy protest representatives did not inform their notice of assembly to the authorities, violating the Assembly Act.
As of 5:30 PM, protesters had moved closer to the Parliament and police had withdrawn, at one point causing open conflict between yellow-shirted pro-establishment supporters who had been present since the morning at a separate protest and pro-democracy protesters. Multiple scuffles took place as well as objects being thrown such as rocks. Several members of Parliament reportedly left via boat at the rear of parliament as protesters drew closer to the building, despite protest leaders stressing they only wanted to assemble at the front of the building peacefully and did not intend to charge the building or cause property damage.
Several members of Parliament also reportedly came outside to attempt to negotiate with authorities and lessen the tensions, without much immediate signs of success.
Water cannons continued to be used on the protesters who continued to advance on Parliament as of 5:45 PM. The overall debate over charter amendments continues inside of Parliament at this time, despite some members reportedly leaving.
This is a developing story.
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