Thai police fire water cannon, tear gas as protest turns violent

USA & World

Thai police fire water cannon, tear gas as protest turns violent

Thailand’s pro-democracy protesters clashed with a royalist group dressed in yellow on Tuesday in front of Parliament and police blasted demonstrators with water cannon and fired tear gas to break them up.

Protesters are demanding changes to the constitution drawn up by Thailand’s former military government. They also want the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army general, and reforms to curb the powers of the powerful monarchy.

Police sprayed water cannon at demonstrators who tried to cut their way through razor-wire barricades. Then they fired tear gas at the hundreds of demonstrators.

Ambulances ferried the injured to a hospital. Bangkok’s Erawan Medical Center said five people were hospitalised while others were treated at the scene.

“This is brutal,” said a 31-year-old volunteer with the FreeYouth protest group who gave his name as Oh. The group posted pictures of riot police on Twitter with the caption “Dictator’s lackeys!”

Police declared that protests were banned within 50 metres of the parliament area.

“Protesters tried to break through the barricades to enter the restricted area,” police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told reporters.

Legislators were discussing several proposals on how to amend the constitution as demanded by the demonstrators who want reforms of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy along with Prayuth’s removal.

Protests that picked up in July initially targeted Prayuth and constitutional change but have since called for the monarch’s role to be more clearly accountable, and for the reversal of changes that gave the king personal control of the royal fortune and several army units.

Prayuth led the 2014 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government.

‘Eye to eye’

Before the anti-government protesters reached Parliament, several hundred royalists dressed in yellow, the colour representing the monarchy, gathered there to urge legislators not to make changes to the constitution.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Bangkok, said there were concerns of these “two sets of protesters seeing each other eye to eye”.

“This is the first time it has happened where it has been mildly violent. I would say mildly because it only lasted a bit, it was quite violent,” Heidler said.

“There was a clash … a sustained clash for about 10, maybe 15 minutes … Nothing major but that’s the first time we’ve seen this.”