Police fire water cannon at pro-democracy protesters in Bangkok

Police in full riot gear have used water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters gathered at the Pathumwan intersection, defying the ban on mass gatherings imposed during the severe state of emergency.

Lines of police officers blocking Ratchaprasong intersection

The protest, which was scheduled to begin at 17.00 on 16 October, was originally planned to take place at the Ratchaprasong intersection, where a mass protest also took place yesterday (15 October) following the crackdown on the protest at the Government House in the early morning of 15 October.

However, by 15.00, police officers had already set up barriers at the Ratchaprasong and Pratunam intersections, blocking off the area. They also blocked smaller streets and stopped pedestrians and vehicles from going into the area.

Police officers also raided the offices of the Progressive Movement, a group formed by banned members of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, during a press conference by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.

Barriers at Ratchaprasong intersection

At 16.30, police in full riot gear were seen lining up at the Ratchaprasong intersection, blocking off traffic. Officers carrying batons were also seen near the police headquarters.

Officers carrying batons seen near the police headquarters

The student activist group Free Youth then announced that the protest was moving to the Pathumwan intersection.

Protesters began occupying the Pathumwan intersection at 17.00 

By 17.00, protesters had already occupied half of the intersection, and Phayathai Road was closed from the MBK shopping centre to Ratchathewi BTS Station.

Prior to the protest, the BTS Sky Train announced that the Ratchathewi and Ratchadamri stations were closed. After the location change, the Siam Station and National Stadium stations were also closed. The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority also announced that all public bus and van routes close to the protest area were suspended and public transport would not stop at any stop within a 5-kilometre radius of the Ratchaprasong intersection. Samyan MRT Station was also later closed.

A line of shield-carrying police under the Siam BTS Station

Water cannon blasts into protesters who shield themselves with umbrellas. A video clip was also circulating on social media of people on the Pathumwan Skywalk dropping umbrellas down to people on the street below to shield themselves. 

At 18.50, as it began to rain heavily, police officers in full riot gear moved into the area near the Siam BTS Station and fired water cannon at the protesters, and pushed into them with their shields. There were reports that the water contained chemical irritants and was stained blue with long-lasting paint, as well as reports of the police using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

On Phaya Thai Road, a large crowd of protesters, many of whom were high school students in uniform, ran out of the Pathumwan intersection and into nearby Chulalongkorn University, which the student group Nisit Chula Party had designated a safe zone on standby in case of a crackdown. Student representatives stood by the gates with megaphones telling protesters to come inside the campus.  

Protesters running out of the Pathumwan intersection onto Phaya Thai Road, heading towards Chulalongkorn University. 

People gathered at the Faculty of Political Science, where student volunteers and several lecturers were handing out bottles of water and organizing people into groups so they can leave through the nearest gate to the closest BTS and MRT stations. They also provided ammonia and water for people who got sprayed with the blue paint to clean themselves, and handed out shirts for them to change.  

At 18.57, police officers were ordered to drop their shields and arrest the protesters. There were also reports of officers preparing to use tear gas on the protesters.

At 19.20, the police reportedly used tear gas in the Siam BTS Station area, according to a nearby Prachatai reporter and an observer from iLaw, who said they were hit with some kind of chemical irritant. A reporter from PPTV who was doing a live broadcast nearby also said that they felt some irritation on their face and in their eyes, and that the water that the police fired at the protesters may have been mixed with some chemical irritant.

At 21.05, the police ordered all protesters and reporters to leave the Pathumwan intersection area or be arrested. Five minutes later, they fired water cannon at protesters on the Rama 1 side of the intersection and moved towards the National Stadium BTS Station.

At 22.25, shield-carrying officers marched to the Hua Chang bridge, near the Ratchathewi BTS Station, where a group of people were still gathered and announced that everyone must leave in 20 minutes. However, at 22.30, police officers fired water cannon at the group. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) also reported there was an announcement for the protesters, who were pushed back to the Ratchathewi intersection, to be arrested.

TLHR also said that officers were running after protesters who ran into Soi Phaya Nak and arresting them, and that they also arrested a number of protesters closest to the police line.

At 23.15, traffic resumed at the Pathumwan intersection.

Protesters at the Pathumwan intersection before the crackdown

TLHR said that at least 12 protesters were arrested during the 16 October crackdown and were taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani, including student activist Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, a leading member of Free Youth, activist Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich, and Prachatai reporter Kitti Pantapak.

One of those arrested was an employee at a restaurant near Hua Chang Bridge. He was arrested at around 22.00 and also taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters.

Under the severe state of emergency, the government imposed a ban on gatherings of more than five people. The state of emergency also allows state officials to arrest people and detain them for 30 days without informing them of the charges against them, and bans the publication of information that “could create fear”, affect national security, or damage public morale.

The protest organisers issued a statement condemning the use of force against the protesters, and announced that there will be another demonstration on Saturday (17 October) at 16.00 at a location that is still unspecified.