High-pressure water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets were reportedly fired at pro-democracy demonstrators this afternoon, July 18th, while they were marching from the Democracy Monument to the Government House to demand the procurement of mRNA vaccines and the resignation of the Prime Minister and his government.
Some protesters who had joined the assembly, which is illegal under current Covid-19 related measures, were also protesting Covid-19 related closures and measures and what they claim is a lack of appropriate financial aid measures and the devastation of the economy.
Early this afternoon the Bangkok police also warned that water with tear gas chemicals will also be used if the protesters did not call off the gathering and marched to the Government House as they were considered violating the Emergency Decree and the Royal Gazette announcement of gathering prohibitions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 Coronavirus.
This followed, as seen in the above picture, protesters placing mock “bodies” in white sheets at the victory monument, symbolically showing, according to them, those who had passed away from Covid-19, as well as Covid-19 related policies and restrictions.
The current limit on gatherings in “maximum control zones”, or dark red, is 5. However, all public assemblies such as protests are prohibited as are “parties” or drinking alcohol in groups. The Thai government claims the orders are to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and are not political. Protesters, however, have disagreed and claim the orders are to prevent the people from expressing their displeasure with the government and their policies.
The demonstration, organized by Free YOUTH, began in the Ratchadamnoen area at around 2:00 PM., attracting other groups of pro-democracy activists and protesters who also staged a car protest on Ratchadamnoen road. Protesters had a variety of causes, but all shared a distaste for the current measures of the Thai Government, especially in regards to the handling of the Covid-19 situation that has seen curfews, widespread forced business closures, and domestic travel restrictions across parts of the country.
The protesters marched along Phan Fa Lilat bridge, intending to reach Government House, where barbed-wire fences, traffic barriers, and two water cannon trucks were deployed around 3:30 P.M. An estimated number, according to Bangkok Police officials, of 2,000 crowd control police were also seen lining up and tightly monitoring the situation. The police had periodically warned the protesters, asking them to disperse as they started to dismantle the obstruction and barricades leading to the Government House. Police repeatedly told protesters their gathering was against multiple orders and current laws in place due to Covid-19, including the Emergency Decree to fight Covid-19, Communicable Disease Acts, Bangkok Metropolitan Administrative orders, national bans on mass assembly, and others. The protesters, however, did not disperse despite the warnings.
As of 3:38 PM., the first water cannon was reportedly fired at the protest site while the police announced that further protesting and not dispersing could lead to legal prosecution. The Police Commander also stated that more intense dispersal operations would be used if the protest continued.
As of 4:00 PM., water with tear gas chemicals and rubber bullets were reportedly used against the demonstrators. Two people were reportedly injured from a rubber bullet shot during the dispersal, according to iLaw. Some reporters dispersed during these altercations, but many stayed.
The remaining demonstrators changed their route to Nakhonsawan Road and nearly made their way to the Government House. However, they faced more confrontations as the traffic obstructions and a group of hundreds of police was also deployed nearby with more water trucks, barricades, barbed wire, and other obstacles.
As of 6:30 P.M., Free Youth, a major organizer of the event, called off the event on social media even as Thai protesters burned effigies of the Prime Minister at a mock guillotine near the Government house. This is only a few hours before a mandatory stay-at-home curfew at 9:00 P.M. It is unknown exactly how many were injured in total during the afternoon protests.
Law enforcement has continually warned that charges would be forthcoming to those that organized the protest and participated.
Photo Courtesy: iLaw
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