Violence and mayhem seen in the heart of Bangkok. Events on Saturday clearly shows a more aggressive approach from the student-led protest movement which vowed to return on February 20th unless four key leaders are released from prison.
The Thai National Police Commissioner, on Sunday, defended his officers after Saturday’s mayhem in the heart of Bangkok. He warned that everyone involved would be prosecuted. This comes amid notably more aggressive tactics from the protest movement which saw protesters charge at police, in force, with reports of explosives and rocks being thrown in the confusion causing officers to be hospitalised.
The National Police Commissioner, Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk, on Sunday visited nearly 20 police officers at the police hospital in Bangkok who were injured by protesters in fierce clashes on Saturday evening near the City Pillar Shrine.
In all, 23 policemen were taken to hospital but four were discharged in the same day with relatively minor injuries.
General Suwat blames protesters for the violence
Thailand’s top policeman put the blame for the chaos and violence seen on Saturday squarely on the shoulders of the protest organisers saying police were forced to act as they were confronted by a riot.
Many of the policemen injured in Saturday’s disturbances were reported to be suffering from the effects of chemicals and rocks which were hurled at police causing injury despite their protective gear.
Confident that man attacked by police was a legitimate target given the circumstances of the riot
Responding to media coverage and a Reuters report showing a man, dressed as a medic, being manhandled and beaten by police truncheons, General Suwat Jangyodsuk was confident that the individual concerned was a legitimate target for police intervention following the violence that broke out at the scene.
He warned that protesters next Saturday must be careful not to provoke violence again and said if those on the streets had communicated with police and followed the law, the mayhem that broke out could have been avoided.
He said everyone involved will be prosecuted for their actions by the Royal Thai Police.
Deep concern and unease at riotous events
There is deep concern and unease at what happened on Saturday in Bangkok with conflicting reports of a gunman being seen in the midst of the disturbances who was attacked by protesters and later arrested by police.
Police Colonel Nimit Nuponthong of Nang Loeng station on Saturday night confirmed two firearms were seized in the course of the riots by police and two official vehicles had been shot at the immobilized.
Situation deteriorated after 3.25 pm when police ordered the protest to disperse and were attacked
The situation on Saturday is understood to have deteriorated after 3.25 pm when police ordered the protesters to disperse near Democracy Monument.
The response by protesters was to charge at the riot officers who retreated from the scene. Later the emboldened activists removed potted plants from around the structure and entered it.
Speech demanded the release of 4 key leaders
At 6 pm a speech was made by Mr Attapon Buaphat who demanded the release of the 4 key protest leaders being held at Bangkok Remand Prison since February 9th last when they were refused bail on charges under Article 112.
An hour later, they moved towards the Supreme Court where they were confronted by barbed wire and barricades.
This led to explosions as protesters again attacked the police and removed the barricades leading to a violent clash between the two sides.
Two well-known protest leaders parley with police
Police officers then requested a parley with the protest leaders. This saw the emergence of key leaders Panupong Chadnok, also known as Mike Rayong, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.
While a truce was brokered under the glare of four media representatives, allowing 4 rally leaders to pay their respects at the City Pillar Shrine, the leaders of the protest again warned that they would return on February 20th if the key leaders Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak alias ‘Penguin’, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem are not released from prison.
‘Free Guard’ rushed Ms Panusaya away
Sometime later, explosions again rang out causing further disorder and the ‘Free Guard’ were seen ushering Ms Panusaya away from the scene.
There were later clashes between police and protesters leading to a scene outside Nang Loeng Police Station which was diffused at about 11.30 pm when two protesters were released by officers.
Police arrested a gunman who provoked alarm and disorder on both sides by shooting at protesters
At a press conference, on Sunday, Police Deputy spokesman Kritsana Pattanacharoen said police had arrested the man with the firearm who spooked the protesters. He was being detained at Nang Loeng police station.
He pointed out that police had been injured in the ensuing confusion.
He said 7 or 8 people had been detained at both Nang Loeng and Chana Songkhram police stations for interfering in police operations but these people had not been charged.
Information from the Erawan Center in Bangkok or the Bangkok Emergency Medical Service Center shows that up to 25 people were injured in Saturday’s rioting. Over 20 of them were policemen.