A Reuters report on Sunday highlighted riot police beating what appeared to be a man in a yellow medics vest while a doctors group condemned the action as a violation of human rights. However, the Metropolitan Police Bureau boss Pakkapong Pongpetra defended his officers saying the protesters had been legally ordered to leave the area near the Supreme Court and failed to comply with police instructions as required.
A man was shot with a rubber bullet in the mouth on Saturday and police at Nang Loeng Police Station retrieved two firearms after two official vehicles were shot at and damaged by protesters who staged violent and angry scenes outside the police station on Saturday night until 11.30 pm when two protesters were released. The move follows earlier clashes between Metropolitan Police riot squads and Ratsadon movement protesters in what appears to be the use of more confrontational tactics by protesters who on Saturday issued a statement defending the use of violence if they are attacked. Up to 20 people are understood to have been hospitalised as a result of the day’s running street battles.
Violence broke out on Saturday at a protest by the Ratsadon group at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.
As well as scuffles and physical confrontations between riot police and demonstrators, it is reported that tear gas was used and one of the protesters received a serious injury to the upper lip area of his mouth after being hit by a rubber bullet.
Up to 20 hospitalised in violent street clashes that went on until 11.30 pm in the centre of Bangkok
Reports suggest that up to 20 people were admitted to hospital while police also detained 11 people in angry street clashes.
The violence continued on and off until after 11.30 pm on Saturday night when an irate and aggressive crowd protested outside Nang Loeng Police Station.
The standoff outside the police station saw two protesters released by police which helped quell the tense scene leading to the dispersal of the crowd.
Senior police officer says two guns were used to damage official vehicles as protesters vow to return
After this, Police Colonel Nimit Nuponthong of Nang Loeng station revealed police had seized two firearms during the protest activity which had been used to shoot at and disable cars used by security officials in the course of their duty.
However, leaders of the protest have vowed to be back on the streets next Saturday, February 20th which will coincide with a parliamentary vote of confidence in the current government led by Prayut Chan ocha.
Movement demands the release of 4 key leaders
The main grievance of the protesters, this weekend, was the imprisonment of 4 key leaders of the People’s Movement or Ratsadon group on February 9th last when the Criminal Court in Bangkok refused them bail when they appeared before it on Section 112 charges for lèse-majesté and sedition under Section 116 of the criminal code, both extremely serious offences.
The four are Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk.
The violence began earlier on Saturday after police allowed a number of representatives of the protesters access to Democracy Monument to pay their respects.
This coincided with clashes between the police and protesters outside which then progressed.
Ratsadon claims the right to use violence if attacked by police if third parties are not harmed
The People’s Movement or Ratsadon group issued a statement on Saturday which defended the right of those taking part in protests to resort to violence if they are physically mishandled once their actions do not harm third parties.
The statement comes amid reports of a split in the ranks of the protest movement about tactics and more of an emphasis in the latter part of last year on confronting police forces in the streets with the formation of what the movement called a ‘Free Guard.’
Incident in which a man dressed as a medic was beaten by riot police gains traction online
On Sunday however, pictures of the police beating a protester, on the ground wearing what appeared to be a yellow medic’s vest, at the scene of clashes, with truncheons were published by news agency Reuters.
The incident took place outside the Supreme Court building in Sanam Luang.
This led to a Twitter hashtag #policebeatingmedic on the vastly popular social media channel.
A group called the Rural Doctor Society issued a statement claiming the police action represented a clear violation of human rights.
However, the Metropolitan Police Bureau Chief, Pakkapong Pongpetra, dismissed the claims on Sunday.
He defended the officers involved and pointed out that the man in the picture was involved in clashes between the police and protesters who refused an official order to clear the area which had the force of law.
Poll shows the public has a nuanced and mixed view of current street protests in Thailand
Meanwhile, a Nida Poll published on Sunday in the Bangkok Post and conducted in February from a sample of over 1,100 people found that nearly 68% of the public say the Ratsadon group or street protest movement is led by it’s core leaders, many of whom have been charged before the courts including the four imprisoned this week.
The survey showed the public had an increasingly mixed view about both the substance and nature of the protester’s demands.
65% of people believe third parties are involved
In addition, over 65% said they believe there are other forces or people who are behind the movement.
A Super Poll survey in November, shockingly, showed that over 80% of people believe that a third party ranging from a businessman at nearly 90% to a non-friendly foreign government at 80% were behind the current protests.
However, another poll by the same company also showed, in September last year, that 80% of those polled supported the core demands of the protesters except for the fact that an overwhelming majority do not want to see the monarchy involved in the tussle between the movement and the government in any way.
In addition, over 90% said they were averse to the use of violence under any circumstances.