Signal by the police commissioner of a softer tone on Saturday was accompanied by the removal of a container barricade which has been the focus of the standoff for weeks between aggressive protesters, mainly young people and the riot squad officers of the Metropolitan Police Bureau. However, later on Saturday, police in Din Daeng came under attack.
On Saturday night, police revealed that in spite of efforts during the day to calm flaring tensions between officers and violent youth protesters in the Din Daeng area of the city, a grenade was thrown into the midst of riot control officers as they gathered, wounding seven policemen. Details of the incident were given by police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kritsana Pattanacharoen.
In response to the incident, police are understood to have seized seven vehicles and made up to 8 arrests.
Lieutenant Colonel Kritsana said police officers had been trying to use reasonable force while instructing the crowd to disperse.
He said what they were confronted with was not normal protesting but a violent attack as the grenade was followed by ping pong bombs and fireworks explosives hurled at police.
This resulted in police dispersing the crowds in a charge leading to the arrests.
The senior policeman said the clear objective of the aggressive crowd, which had gathered, was to cause chaos and mayhem in Din Daeng.
Police chief called for calm on Saturday afternoon as officers arrested three at ping pong bomb factory
As a 15-year-old boy lay in a coma in hospital on life support after being shot with a live round, there were signs on Saturday that police were moving to bring an end to their standoff between younger protesters in Bangkok in the Din Daeng area of the city which for the last two weeks has turned violent.
On Saturday afternoon, the National Police Commissioner, General Suwat Jangyodsuk gave a press conference in which he asked his officers to calm the situation.
Friday saw three men arrested for supplying ping pong bombs at ฿300 each to groups of teenagers taking on the police in Din Daeng.
Residents of the area called on the Metropolitan Police Bureau to desist from using tear gas and rubber bullets in the conflict near their homes.
On Saturday evening, in Bangkok, there was some concentration of young people on motorbikes near the well-known intersection in the city, a roadway turnoff linked to a network surrounding the bustling city famous for its traffic jams.
This came hours after the police commissioner gave a press conference calling for the moderation of police activity against the protesters.
It followed criticism of police actions on Friday which saw video clips go viral in which crowd control officers were seen firing plastic bullets at motorcyclists.
Police chief calls for consideration for his officers who face a difficult task in finding the right balance and standard of response in a violent situation
The police chief also asked the press and the public for an understanding of the duty officers had to uphold the law and the difficult job they have to do while finding the right balance in line with international standards under extremely violent conditions.
Responding to a reporter’s question, he said all movies eventually end but the question now is whether this will be a short film or a feature-length one after being asked about the prospect of halting the street violence.
The Din Daeng junction has, over the course of the last two weeks, become a flashpoint for violent confrontation between police and running gangs of young people.
Police moved contentious container blockade on Saturday to reduce tensions at Din Daeng
It was reported, on Saturday afternoon, that police had adjusted their tactics and removed containers on the Vibhavadi Rangsit Road which had been contested by protesters as they were designed to stop activists from using the route to move closer to the residence of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha within the 1st Infantry Regiment compound in the area.
At the same time, the main protest group linked with the recent clashes, Tha Lu Fah, also came out to disassociate itself from the increasingly violent actions of some of the young people challenging police lines claiming that the activist group only supports peaceful protests such as those which it carried out in recent days outside the United Nations Building in Bangkok as well as the US, Swiss and Chinese embassies.
Activist group distances itself from street violence
Tha Lu Fah categorically denied that the group was linked to the violence and aggressive tactics against police officers at the scene during the last week including the firing of ping pong bombs, fireworks and other projectiles at police using catapults and slingshots.
On Wednesday, the activist group associated with 29-year-old Khon Kaen based human rights campaigner Pai Dao Din or Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, moved its protest activities from Victory Monument to Democracy Monument.
Young teenagers who are not affiliated with protest groups seeking thrills in street combat with the police
It is not clear whether the moves by the police and the protest movement will help dampen the violent exchanges between police using tear gas and rubber bullets and the young protesters, believed by many observers, in some cases, to be teenagers acting on their own initiative out of frustration at the government over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis and in others, simply for high jinks.
Scores of police officers have already been hospitalised in the ongoing mob activity which has seen police lines attacked with objects fired at force and explosive devices.
This has consequently led to breakouts where police have advanced on groups of protesters firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
A 15-year-old boy in a coma and critical on life support at Rajavithi Hospital, bullet in his spine
The outcome of the clashes has been tragic with a 15-year-old schoolboy, injured by a live gunshot round on Monday night in clashes between police and protesters, lying in a coma in hospital and on life support having been attached to a ventilator.
On Thursday night, the Rajavithi Hospital issued a statement in which it said surgery on the teenager was out of the question for now until there was some sign of an improvement in his condition.
It is understood the bullet concerned has been found lodged in the upper part of the teenager’s spine. The young boy’s condition is extremely serious.
‘Doctors have agreed the patient is still in critical condition and needs close monitoring,’ a hospital statement said.
Mother just wanted to bring her boy home, declines to speculate on whether police were involved
On Tuesday, the mother of the boy named as Ms Nipaporn Somnoi would not be drawn on speculation that the bullet that hit her son may have been fired by police officers.
She told the press that all she wanted now was to be in a position to be able to take her son home.
‘I told him your mum was here. Please wake up and talk to me, she explained as she also made clear her anxiety at what happened to her son. ‘I’m here to take you back home. It should not have happened to a boy who is only 15.’
Three arrested for supply of ping pong bombs to mob members confronting police lines for cash on TikTok
On Friday, police working with the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB), announced the arrest of three suspects who are believed to be behind an operation to supply ammunition including homemade ping pong bombs to leaders of the renegade Din Daeng protesters who are believed to be attracting wayward teenagers to these clashes over the last week.
Police Lieutenant General Kanchai Khlaikhleung told the press that the protesters were paying ฿300 for each ping pong bomb delivered to the site.
Police revealed that orders for the explosive devices were placed through Chinese based social media site TikTok.
They were manufactured by the suspects at their home bomb-making factory.
Officers arrested two 23-year-old suspects and another man at a property in the Don Muang area of the city under a warrant issued by the Criminal Court.
Police at Don Muang are still investigating the case while holding the three suspects for prosecution
The arrest warrants were issued for 23-year-old Yothin Chansom and Ratchasak Sasuk as well as Jiranan Jaija.
All three were charged by police with the offence of illegal importing, making or selling of explosives in contravention of the country’s firearms laws and face up to 20 years in prison as well as a ฿40,000 fine on conviction.
The three were handed over to officers at Don Muang Police Station who are still investigating the case.
Residents in Din Daeng called for peace to be restored and for police not to use tear gas or rubber bullets
On Saturday, residents in the Din Daeng area of Bangkok pleaded with the police to do everything possible to end the standoff between officers and the younger people which has been causing severe hardship to local residents who had to suffer ongoing nightly disturbances.
Prasong Homsanan of the Din Daeng Community told the press that what locals wanted was to see peace restored.
‘We have children, old people, and sick people. Please help restore peace. For us too,’ Mr Prasong said.
He specifically called on officers not to use rubber bullets or tear gas as it posed a risk to young and old people living in nearby accommodation.
On Saturday, residents displayed a poster making their position clear to authorities. Again, they wanted peace.