New, harsher police response at 16 January protests

Flash mobs at the Victory Monument, the Ministry of Education and close to Chulalongkorn University met harsh police responses with at least 8 people arrested and a journalist injured by a pipe bomb.

The collaged photo of political activities at Victory Monument, Ministry of Education and a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima.

By 22.24, 6 people had been taken to the Border Patrol Police (BPP) Region 1 headquarters, Pathum Thani Province: 2 from the Victory Monument protest and the rest from the Sam Yan protest close to Chulalongkorn University.

A heavy presence of crowd control police could be seen at every site. At around 11.30 at the Victory Monument, the police aggressively intervened and removed a '112 metre-long message to government'. 2 people were arrested and taken immediately to the BPP headquarters right away without being first processed at Phaya Thai Police Station, which is responsible for the area.

The 2 were charged under the Communicable Diseases Act and the Emergency Decree for staging a public gathering. The other cases are still under the investigation at the time of writing.

Another protest at the Ministry of Education held by ‘Bad Student’, a student activist group, to parody Teacher’s Day ceremonies that are held every 16 January, also faced police intervention. 5 people were taken to Metropolitan Police Division 1; 4 high school students and 1 freshman university student.

However, later-arriving students continued with the activity until 15.28 after the police at 15.20 demanded that they leave the area within 15 minutes.

At 15.30, a protest was staged at Sam Yan Mitr Town shopping mall. Despite a megaphone announcement asking people to return home and wait for a further announcement on the fate of those arrested earlier, people remained in the area.

At 17.45, several hundred crowd control police arrived at the scene and took control of Sam Yan intersection. The police also brought in many detention trucks.

17.54, a loud explosion was heard followed by white smoke. It was later identified as a pipe bomb. Tanakorn Wongpanya, a reporter from The Standard, received a minor injury from a fragment of the explosion. 4 police also suffered minor injuries.

Regarding the explosion, the police detained 4 suspects, 2 men and 2 women, according to Matichon. iLaw reported that their phones were seized and they were not informed where they would be taken.

The overwhelming police reaction involving the deployment of large numbers of officers, aggressive engagement, and the speedy arrest and despatch of suspects to Pathum Thani for interrogation is a shift in their modus operandi against pro-democracy activities.

This response was seen at the shrimp-selling activity staged by the WeVo group on 31 December, 2020, where around 500 police aggressively dispersed and arrested people who were trying to help struggling shrimp farmers sell shrimps.

No law currently allows the police to transfer arrestees for interrogation to the facility of their choosing. The severe state of emergency, which did enable them to do so, was withdrawn in October 2020. The Criminal Procedure Code authorizes police to detain and interrogate people only at the police station responsible for the area where the alleged offence occurred.

This change in procedure was implemented at around the same time as a series of people received summonses and arrest warrants for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the law that criminalize defamation of the King, Queen, Heir and Regent.

United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, one of the pro-democracy protest organizers, published a statement denouncing the police’s harsh measures and those who gave them ‘green light’ to use force against the people. The statement demands the unconditional release of those who are arrested.

In the afternoon at a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, a banner was spotted with the message “The shooting was almost a year ago, where is military reform?”

The banner refers to the mass shooting on 8-9 February in Nakhon Ratchasima, when Sgt Jakrapanth Thomma killed at least 30 people, using military weapons he stole from his base. He was reportedly provoked by a conflict with his superior about housing. The case drew social attention to the ‘twilight zone’ within the military.

On 20.30 Saturday, People gathered at Khon Kaen Democracy Monument, Khon Kaen provine to express their disagreement with the police use of force at the Victory Monument. Khon Kaen police officers could be seen observing the activity.

About 21.00, 2 banners with messages "天竜人を滅ぼせ! Abolish the celestial dragons" and "The will of D" were reportedly spotted at Kong Bin 41 Intersection, Chiang Mai province.

The messages refer to the narrative of the famous Manga One Piece when the celestial dragons are a group of dictating elites that perhaps would be cast in chaos by those who have the will of D.

Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91229

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