BANGKOK (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – Thai police fired stinging liquid from water cannon at thousands of Thai protesters in the capital on Friday (Oct 16) in the most violent escalation of three months of demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former junta leader.
Protesters rallied at the main intersection near the MBK Center shopping mall in central Bangkok – defying a government ban on gatherings for a second day – and pushed back against helmeted police who advanced with batons and riot shields.
“Get out, get out,” the protesters chanted as police used the heaviest force yet to stop three months of protests that have challenged King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy as well as demanded the removal of Mr Prayut.
“The dictatorial government is using violence to disperse the people’s movement,” said Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, one of the protest leaders.
The King has made no direct comment on the protests, but in comments broadcast on state television on Friday, he said Thailand “needs people who love the country and love the monarchy”. The comments were pre-recorded from an event a day earlier.
Until now, police had not used major force to suppress peaceful protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people, although more than 40 demonstrators – including several leaders – have been arrested in the past week.
A ban on gatherings of more than five people was imposed on Thursday.
“We’ve issued warnings against illegal acts,” police spokesman Yingyot Thepchamnong told reporters. “After this there will be intensive measures in enforcing the law.”
Reuters journalists said water turned on the protesters contained chemicals that made them sting.