Thai protesters mass despite crackdown

Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat
·2-min read

Thousands of Thai protesters took to the streets of Bangkok on Wednesday despite the worst violence in months of demonstrations the day before, when police fired water cannon and tear gas and at least 55 people were hurt.

Youth-led protests since July have become the biggest challenge to the establishment in years with their demands for the ousting of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a new constitution and reforms to curb the monarchy's powers.

"We will resist peacefully," Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul told the protest in central Bangkok. "The use of force on people and youths is not acceptable."

In parliament, where lawmakers voted on seven options for ways to change the constitution, a proposal that would have opened the way for discussion of the monarchy's role failed to win enough votes for approval.

Two proposals were adopted that would allow for discussion of constitutional change without affecting the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

"We will not touch on that," said Wirat Ratanaset, from the ruling coalition.

The vote was not a surprise. Prayuth's supporters have a majority in the parliament, where the entire upper house Senate was appointed by the junta he led after a 2014 coup until a disputed election last year.

Protesters battled their way to the gates of parliament on Tuesday, after police repeatedly used tear gas and water cannon to try to push them back. Protesters also scuffled with yellow-shirted royalist counter-protesters.

Bangkok's Erawan Medical Centre said at least 55 people were hurt, with 32 suffering from tear gas and six with gunshot wounds. Police said they had confirmed two gunshot wounds and were investigating further.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters the government was sorry people were hurt and wanted protests to remain peaceful.

There was no immediate sign of trouble on Wednesday, but protesters brought along the inflatable pool ducks that they have used as shields against police water cannon and tear gas. Police said more than 6,000 people were at the protest.