A thousand pro-democracy protesters return, with cooking utensils

About one thousand joined a protest at Pathum Wan Skywalk in a bid to address economic hardship and demand the release of detained activists. They also underlined their original 3 demands: resignation of the PM, constitutional amendment and monarchy reform.

Protesters descending to the BACC forecourt at dusk.

After a hiatus of a month because of the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in January, the Ratsadorn protest group and the Labour Network for People’s Rights joined hands to organize a ‘banging pots against dictatorship’ protest, an activity inspired by the pot-banging in Myanmar as an anti-dictatorship message.

People started to gather at 15.00, an hour prior to the designated time. The police could be seen setting up checkpoints to search people’s belongings before joining the protests. Over 100 crowd control police, fully equipped with defensive gear, batons and shields, were deployed along with 2 water cannon trucks.

Protesters gathered on the Skywalk for an hour before descending to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre forecourt.

Sriprai Nonsee of the Rangsit and Area Labour Union Group gave a speech about the hardship of workers, demanding that the government have a comprehensive relief policy, instead of picking some groups of people and leaving others behind. In Thailand, migrant workers do not receive any kind of relief from the government. 

She said inequality in Thailand must be solved. The budgets for the military and monarchy are too high. They should be cut in order to pay for social welfare. People’s taxes should be used to alleviate the people’s hardship.

Protesters with drums joining the pot-banging activity.

Panupong Jadnok, a leading protest figure from Rayong Province, said police tactics today were against universal principles in dealing with protests. A crackdown can only be authorized by the courts, not someone’s order.

His message to the government and the King was that people are now starving to death in poverty. They cannot wait for the King to smash his crown into pieces with the pieces distributed to the people.

Tossaporn Serirak, a doctor and former MP, attended the protest as usual. He was seen drawing portraits and bringing first aid kits to deal with emergencies. He said he was there out of concern for the protesters’ safety.

“I want to say ‘keep fighting’, but there must be awareness. The most important thing is experience. Our young brothers and sisters have power and knowledge but what they lack is experience.

Tossaporn Serirak showing the bandages he brings along.

“I say to the government, the Prime Minister or all the great people, stop creating the conditions for protests. It is better to quickly stop everything and start negotiating,” said Tossaporn.

Many people could be seen with the banners calling for the abolition of Section 112 of the Criminal Code and also with banners protesting the Myanmar coup.

March to police station

As the protest went on, at least 9 people were arrested at the protest and taken to Pathumwan Police Station, where all but two were released after paying a fine.

At 16.45 a woman was arrested while she was spraying “No Ju” on a bulletin board near the BTS train station. Cleaning staff were immediately summoned to remove the message.

Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), another leading protest figure, announced that the protesters would march to Pathumwan Police Station, located about a kilometre away, where at least 4 people from today’s protest were detained .

Before the march, Panussaya said the government has underestimated the people's movement. The people have not forgotten the three main demands of the movement that started in 2020: the resignation of Gen Prayut, a new constitution from the people, and reform of the constitutional monarchy.

Chaos as tear gas thrown

At 19.50 the protesters arrived at the police station. Some protesters could be seen holding banners supporting a republic.

Panupong said the police had until 20.30 to release those arrested, or protesters would break into the station.

At 20.28 a commotion took place behind and beside the police station. Protesters clashed with crowd control police who had just arrived. The sound of explosions could be heard and the use of tear gas was reported.

Panupong encouraged people who were ready to deal with the clash to go to the front line. People could be seen passing water to the front in order to counteract the effects of tear gas.

At 20.48, the two remaining arrested protesters were released on 5,000 baht bail each. A tear gas canister was found behind the police station at the clash site, but police denied the use of tear gas. 

However, many people who were residing and eating in a community there dispersed in chaos as they felt the tear gas sensation. 

At 21.03 the protests dispersed. 16 and 19 February are designated as the next protest dates with a 'street no-confidence motion' to parallel the no-confidence motion in parliament on the same dates.

Source: 
https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/02/91624

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