Violent clashes at Siam BTS Station raises alarm as royalists and activists faced off. A 20-minute brawl ensued near Siam Paragon Shopping Centre. Activists’ survey on royal motorcades met with resistance. PM calls for peace but underscores respect for royal procession. Police chief emphasises safety and respect for others. 

A violent fracas between royalists and democracy activists in central Bangkok has sparked concern at the highest level. On Saturday afternoon, a rolling 20-minute series of violent clashes broke out at the Siam BTS station in central Bangkok which extended to the perimeter of the exclusive Siam Paragon Shopping Centre. The incident was linked to attempts by the Thalu Wang group and activist Ms Tantawan Tuatulanon to conduct a survey on royal motorcades A number of people sustained significant injuries including a senior Metropolitan Police Bureau officer. The vitriolic nature of the clashes appears to have taken police by surprise. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin expressed deep concern upon hearing the news. He called for safe dialogue between those with opposing views. However, he emphasised the importance of respect for royal motorcades.

The National Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol has called for respect for royal motorcades where the emphasis was on safety. Scenes from the violent disturbance at the Siam BTS station on Saturday afternoon (left). Activist Tantawan Tuatulanon (right) addressed a crowd of supporters. The activist initially apologised for her action on February 4 last in relation to a royal motorcade.

A tense standoff between royalists and democracy, free speech activists turned violent at Siam BTS station in Bangkok on Saturday.

It eventually sparked a rolling brawl within the station which extended to the perimeter of the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre. 

Activists aimed to conduct a poll regarding royal motorcades. The exercise provoked an enraged response from royalist groups.

Clashes lasted for only 20 minutes but took the police by surprise due to the intensity of feelings unleashed. There were a number of injuries on both sides

The clashes, lasting roughly 20 minutes, resulted in injuries on both sides. Later, with things threatening to get out of hand, BTS staff moved to close specific station gates. 

Despite a police presence from the Metropolitan Police Bureau and intervention, the violence persisted.

Afterwards, it led to mutual complaints being filed at Pathumwan Police Station.

The incident underlines tensions surrounding discussions about the monarchy in Thailand.

The altercation began when the Thalu Wang group and activist Tantawan Tuatulanon gathered on the skywalk at Siam BTS station.

Addressing a small crowd, Ms Tantawan explained she intended to conduct a poll concerning royal motorcades.

Ms Tantawan or ‘Tawan’ is a 22-year-old outspoken activist.

She was previously charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code in January 2023. 

Hunger striker ordered released from prison as court intervenes due to real threat to the young woman’s life

After that, together with another young woman, 23-year-old Orawan Phupong, she went on a hunger strike. A court later ordered their release.

Protest linked to an incident where Ms Tantawan on February 4 staged a protest at a royal motorcade in the capital. On Saturday, she tried to apologise

This gathering followed an incident on February 4 where Ms Tantawan and a colleague honked their car horn at a royal motorcade. After that, she attempted to overtake a police vehicle, drawing criticism and a subsequent police complaint. 

On Saturday, Ms Tantawan explained the purpose of her activity. Indeed, she apologised for her driving in the previous incident.

However, a pro-royalist group, Thai People Protecting the Monarchy, arrived and began upbraiding her.

The situation quickly escalated into pushing, shoving, and verbal altercations between the two factions.

Despite efforts by police and plainclothes officers to intervene, their attempts were futile as the confrontation intensified. Underlying tensions appear to erupt on both sides into fury.

Various acts of violence on the BTS concourse saw people beaten on both sides as things quickly got out of hand even as police officers tried to keep order

Punches were exchanged, and footage captured a man striking a woman three times in the face. The clash persisted for approximately 20 minutes. It led BTS staff to close certain station gates and impose restrictions on access.

Following the cessation of hostilities, Ms Tantawan’s group lodged a complaint against the pro-royalist group, while the latter reciprocated by filing a complaint against the Thalu Wang group.

Police had to separate the warring factions to prevent further violence.

Reports indicated that some members of both groups sustained injuries during the altercation. Ms. Tantawan still faces charges under Article 112 for previous activities.

She led her group in filing a complaint with Pathumwan Police Station against the pro-royalist group. 

Police chief tried to underline the need to have proper regard for royal motorcades but also said that police tried not to inconvenience fellow citizens

In response to the clash, National Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol emphasised the paramount importance of ensuring safety during royal motorcades.

At the same time, he emphasised that care was taken to facilitate traffic without impeding citizens’ travel. 

He directed officers to gather evidence related to the incident on February 4 and ensure impartiality in any legal proceedings. 

Additionally, they planned to disseminate guidelines for the public’s use of road vehicles during royal motorcades. The purpose of this is to enhance safety and mitigate disruptions.

Prime Minister was deeply disturbed by events in Bangkok on Saturday. He called for dialogue but again stressed that royal motorcades must be respected 

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin appeared shocked by Saturday’s violent disruption in the heart of Bangkok.

The PM expressed deep concern about the fracas. At the same time, he urged all parties to engage in dialogue rather than resorting to violence.

He stressed the imperative of achieving a peaceful resolution to any conflict. However, he highlighted the importance of respecting regulations pertaining to royal motorcades. 

Senior police officer sustained a fracture during the fracas at the busy BTS station on Saturday afternoon as his force tried to restore order and safety

Despite his deep concern over the disruption, he suggested it was time to hold discussions in a secure environment to address any underlying grievances.

Meanwhile, conflicting reports emerged regarding injuries sustained during the clash.

One of those reported injured was Police Lieutenant Colonel Wiphob Thongpratueng. Police Colonel Wiphob is a commander of the investigation department at Division Metropolitan Police Division 6. 

Certainly, reports suggest that he suffered a fracture to his right eyebrow.

Stark scenes in Bangkok present a dilemma to politicians, officials and most of the public who do not wish to see the monarchy linked at all with politics

Participants in the brawl on both sides are thought to have received injuries, some as serious as that of the senior police officer. The antagonism and anger displayed by both sides towards each other was quite disturbing.

The normal good humour displayed by both sides at such events quickly gave way when confronted with each other. The police force at the scene also appeared to be taken aback.

Both sides exchanged accusations, with each alleging self-defence.

Ms Tantawan refuted claims of any concealed agenda behind her group’s activities and reaffirmed their independence from political parties.

The incident reignites debates concerning freedom of expression in Thailand. It is also linked with the sensitive subject of the monarchy’s role in Thai society. In short, many Thais including the government and the courts do not wish it to be seen to be involved in politics.

Saturday’s disturbance points to deep-rooted feelings and unresolved tensions.

Renewal of activism may be linked to landmark Constitutional Court decision handed down on January 31 dealing with lèse-majesté accepted by all parties

The renewal of protest activity is considered to be linked to the recent decision by the Constitutional Court in Thailand.

It found that any political activity impinging on the monarchy in any way was forbidden under the 2017 Constitution.

That ruling was later accepted by all political parties including the Move Forward Party. The political grouping which won the May 14th General Election immediately took action. It removed any calls or rhetoric related to Article 112 of the Criminal Code from its online pages. 

Last year, it had campaigned for the reform of the legal provision, not its abolition.

The legal provision itself dates back to the turn of the 20th century.

Despite being amended several times, new constitutions enacted in Thailand in recent decades mean it is now legally off-limits.

Move Forward and its leadership in danger

The ruling handed down by the court on January 31st 2024 could well see the Move Forward Party dissolved in the near future. 

In addition, its key leaders may also be barred from politics. At this time, it is Thailand’s largest political party. It won 151 seats in the General Election on May 14th 2023 with 36.23% of the poll.

Move Forward faces dissolution after the Constitutional Court rules it tried to subvert the monarchy

Following the clashes at the BTS station in Bangkok, the former Move Forward Party leader, Mr Pita Limjaroenrat, called for calm. In the past, he has been associated with Ms Tanatawan and has acted as her sponsor for bail. 

On Saturday, he said repeatedly that he was concerned about the young woman’s actions but understood.

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