Thousands Protest Violence that Injured Dozens in Thai Capital

BenarNews staff
Bangkok
2020-11-18
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th-protests620 Pro-democracy demonstrators spray paint and water on the walls of the Royal Thai Police headquarters building in Bangkok, Nov. 18, 2020
[Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]

Thousands of anti-government activists rallied on Wednesday in Bangkok to protest the worst violence in four months of youth-led pro-democracy protests that left dozens injured, including some with bullet injuries from shots fired by unidentified gunmen a day earlier.

The Erawan Center, which coordinates medical care during emergencies, said that 55 people were injured during Tuesday’s demonstrations, most of them from tear gas, and six people suffered gunshot wounds.

Protesters sprayed paint and water on the walls of the national police bureau building, saying it was “revenge for the water cannon and tear gas used on protesters Tuesday,” as they chanted “dictator’s lackeys,” a slur against police.

Activists said they would continue to demonstrate for their demands after the Thai parliament on Wednesday voted down several constitutional amendments aimed at reforming the monarchy and democratizing the constitution.

“The constitutional amendments are the only tool that will enable us to transform our government into a democracy,” said pro-democracy leader Panusaya Sithijirawattankul, as she renewed calls for changes to the royal institution and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s resignation.

She told BenarNews she did not have any immediate comments on parliament rejecting changes protesters were demanding.

“See you on November 25 in front of the crown property bureau,” one pro-democracy protester shouted, referring to an upcoming protest over the palace’s $40 billion fortune.

 

 

Tuesday’s violence

On Tuesday, thousands of pro-democracy protesters clashed with police and royalists in Bangkok near Parliament, where a two-day debate began on proposed amendments to the constitution.

Police didn’t fire a single shot into the crowds, police spokesman Pol. Col. Krisana Pattanacharoen said Wednesday.

“As I previously announced, no rubber or live bullets were used by authorities during yesterday’s police operations,” Krisana said at a press briefing.

Police also said they could only confirm that two people suffered bullet injuries, because medical personnel were still assessing what caused the injuries of four others.

The two with gunshot wounds were from both sides, Maj. Gen. Piya Tawichai, deputy commander of the Bangkok Metropolitan Police, told the press briefing.

“One pro-government person was shot on the right hip and treated at Rajavithi Hospital and one anti-government person was shot on the left thigh and treated at Vajira Hospital,” he said.

Police were investigating “whether any or both groups of demonstrators fired guns, or the residents inside a temple shot at people in anger,” he said, referring to the Wat Mai Thong Sen Temple, near which protestors had gathered late on Tuesday.

Erawan Center said anti-government activists, pro-monarchy demonstrators and riot police were among the 55 people injured. It did not provide details about who had gunshot wounds or what kind of bullets were fired.

Prayuth on Wednesday said those who used violence must be punished and that police needed to take strict action.

“There must be tougher law enforcement. I told them to not adopt violence. Now we saw evidence of violence, so the police are investigating,” the prime minister told reporters.

“Make no mistake that the wrongdoers can get away with their crimes. Though the crowds were big and the police could not catch them right away, justice will be brought to them later, no matter who they are,” Prayuth said.

Constitutional amendments

On Wednesday, Parliament voted against five proposed constitutional amendments, including one put forth by the NGO iLAW that many protesters supported.

During a two-day debate, royalist members of parliament said that iLAW’s proposed amendment was aimed at changing two sections of the constitution concerning the monarchy, whose members are shielded by strict anti-defamation laws.

The parliament did accept for consideration two draft amendments, one each from the ruling coalition and the opposition, both having to do with procedures for changes to the document.

The opposition’s proposed amendment says a 200-member constitutional drafting committee should be selected via a nationwide election.

The governing coalition’s proposed amendment calls for the committee to be composed of a mix of appointed and elected members, the Associated Press reported.

A newly-formed house committee has been assigned to examine the two amendments before the lawmaking body meets again, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai said on Wednesday.

The committee includes members from the opposition and the ruling coalition.

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