Despite multiple major protest leaders being detained last night, August 9th, 2021, a major car protest, organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), was staged at the Ratchaprasong Intersection of Bangkok this afternoon, August 10th, to demand the government’s resignation.
Pro-democracy protesters arrived at the intersection at around 1:00 PM., driving their motorcycles and cars attached with banners and signs with slogans condemning Prime Minister and what they say is his government’s failure to manage the Covid-19 situation in the country.
Crowd control police were quickly deployed and lines of road barricades had previously been formed at Central World Shopping Mall and the National Police Headquarters since this morning prior to the scheduled protest time. Royal Thai Police had repeatedly warned protesters this week that the scheduled protest was against current strict Covid-19 related laws like the Emergency Decree, Communicable Disease Act, Bangkok Metropolitan Orders, Assembly bans, and other laws that essentially ban all gatherings, rallies, assemblies, parties, and similar events.
In Bangkok, the current limit for a gathering is five people, and any rallies or assemblies, in general, are banned. Gatherings of over one person around alcohol/socializing are banned. The Thai government claims this is to stop the spread of Covid-19 but protesters claim the number of laws against assembly is meant to stop protesters and provide more legal penalties for people expressing their opinions and voices.
As of 2:00 PM., the protest organizers declared a march from the Ratchaprasong Intersection to Sino Thai towers, a construction company partially owned by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul as a shareholder. Loud horns were heard along Sukhumvit Road throughout the march.
At their first destination, one of the pro-democracy protest leaders, Benja Apan, gave a speech about how the Prime Minister and his government had, in their opinion, mishandled the Covid-19 outbreak, the mRNA vaccine procurement, and Thailand in general.
Demonstrators were also seen throwing blood and placing countless small figures of what were supposed to be symbolic representations of dead bodies on the steps of the Sino-Thai building entrance, representing the fatalities in Thailand caused by the disease.
As of 3:52 PM., the UFTD announced the next destination to the house of Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow at Rama IX Road, where they left plenty of symbolic mock Covid-19 dead bodies in front of his house. Thamanat is a controversial figure in the government due to his own legal issues in the past, which you can read more about here.
The march then headed to the third destination at King Power office at Rang Nam Alley, where a group of crowd control police was reportedly deployed nearby to block the protesters from marching to the Prime Minister’s residence. King Power had been under fire from protesters for seeming to not object to the presence of crowd control police on their premises at large protests over the weekend.
As of 4:52 PM., a stand-off between protesters and the police was reported at Din Daeng Intersection. An explosion was reportedly heard several times and thick smog was reportedly seen coming from the site. The protest organizers urged the protesters to avoid confrontation with the police officials and directly head to their next destination.
The protestors were seen throwing paint buckets and spray painting company signs before calling the end of the demonstration at 5:00 PM. However, a clash at Din Daeng Intersection between a small group of protesters and law enforcement continued.
As of 5:45 PM., a police box at Din Daeng Intersection was reportedly set on fire during the confrontation, although the exact identity of the person(s) who did so was not clear. The police warned the protesters to leave the area before 6:00 PM. otherwise, arrests would be conducted against those who remained.
As of 6:30 PM., crowd control police were reportedly constantly firing rubber bullets and tear gas at remaining protesters. Water cannon trucks were also reportedly used against the protesters. Some arrests were reportedly made as well. Protesters were responding, based on video footage on social media, with fireworks, flashbang devices, rocks, and some other items, but were overall unarmed.
As of 7:00 PM., the clash continued between Din Daeng Intersection and the Victory Monument. Another fire at a police box was also reported at the Victory Monument roundabout. Prominent protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul urged both sides to stop and leave the scene via her social media accounts as the situation was worsening and injuring many lives, in her words.
Around 8:00 P.M., more fires were seen from what appeared to be burning rubber and tires around Victory Monument as protesters continued to clash with law enforcement in the area and refused continued warnings to leave. The driver of a large Evergreen container truck was detained by law enforcement officers, several of whom seemed to fire rubber bullets at his vehicle according to footage widely shared online when he drove directly into the middle of the confrontation.
The driver reportedly claimed to police that he was unaware of what was happening at the intersection and was working, delivering cargo when he inadvertently drove into the middle of the ongoing clash. He was seen on video apologizing to the police as he stepped down from his vehicle. His name was not immediately available.
Shortly after curfew at 9:00 P.M. the confrontation appeared to have ceased, with most protesters finally returning home. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the capital of Bangkok is currently under a mandatory overnight curfew from 9:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. daily.
It is unknown exactly how many people were injured during the conflict and more information is due to be released in the morning.
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