At least seven people were arrested during a confrontation between riot police and a small group of pro-democracy protesters at two major locations in Bangkok yesterday, January 16.
The confrontation began yesterday at noon when a small group of pro-democracy activists, who called themselves ‘Free Guards’, were gathering near Victory Monument intersection to symbolically protest against the use of Section 112 or lése majéste law against pro-democracy protesters, with three blank 112-meter banners for passers-by to write their thoughts about the government and the lése majéste law.
Several people had joined and shared their thoughts on the banners before a large group of police, female police, and riot police arrived at the scene and started to encircle the outer area.
Two people at the scene were believed to have been taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani as the police claimed that the protestors were violating the Emergency Decree to control the spread of Covid-19 Coronavirus as well as the Disease Control Act. Thailand is currently seeing the second round of Covid-19 infections, including in Bangkok, that has banned mass gatherings, including protests.
Deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen later arrived at the scene and ordered the police to back down and ask people who were not involved to disperse after heated interactions between the two groups. However, the members of the Free Guard group later called for another gathering at Phayathai Police Station to demand the release of those arrested earlier.
The police, however, had closed off the area and told them to leave the area. The group then decided to assemble again at around 3:30 PM. in front of Samyan Mitrtown in the Pathumwan area.
More pro-democracy activists had joined the protest at the shopping center, where the group repeated their demand for the release of the protesters who had been held. Meanwhile, more crowd control police, estimated at around 300 officers, also arrived at the scene and encircle the outer area of the building. They informed the protesters they were allegedly violating multiple emergency decree and controllable disease acts by gathering and holding a rally and risked harsh penalties of high fines and prison time due to the Covid-19 situation.
The police told the protesters to leave by 4:30 PM. The Free Guard then called for the end of the gathering at around 5:10 PM. after the police promised them to release the arrested protesters with bail.
However, at around 6:00 PM., five more protesters, two women, and three men were arrested in front of the shopping center while they were reportedly leaving the area after the announcement of the end of the demonstration. They were also believed to have been taken to the Border Patrol Police Division 1. It was not immediately made clear what their charges were.
Shortly after that, a small explosion was heard outside Chamchuri Square, located across Samyan Mitrtown, as the crowd was leaving. Four people, including two police officers and civilians, had reportedly suffered minor injuries from the explosion.
According to the police investigation, the handmade explosive device was seen being thrown from an overpass across the intersection while a group of motorcyclists was spotted riding past the route.
It not known if the blast was related to the protests, according to the police. They are now inspecting nearby surveillance cameras and collecting explosive samples for further examination in order to identify and track down the assailant.
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