Protesters gathering near the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Regiment, the King’s Guard in Bangkok last night (28 February) were met with tear gas and rubber bullets during a clash with riot control police.
The protest, which was called by the activist group Free Youth movement, now known as REDEM (Restart Democracy), started at the Victory Monument before marching to the 1st Infantry Regiment to demand that prime minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha move out of army housing, as he retired from the army in 2014. The group also said that electricity and water bills for the army housing are paid for with taxpayer money.
The 1st Infantry Regiment, King’s Close Bodyguard, was also one of the army units recently transferred to King Vajiralongkorn’s personal control. The group is therefore demanding that the control of the army units be transferred out of the King’s control.
REDEM also calls for the monarchy’s power to be limited, for the military to stay out of politics, and for universal state welfare.
However, the authorities blocked Vibhavadi Road with shipping containers and razor wire. At around 18.00, the protesters managed to move one container, but found that riot control police were stationed behind the containers.
While removing the blockade, some protesters reportedly warned journalists not to take photos and to stay behind the frontline.
At 18.15, protesters clashed with riot control police around the Don Mueang toll plaza, during which 2 protesters were arrested and were also reportedly assaulted by the police. Riot control police then formed a line in front of the nearby PTT gas station. 2 water cannon trucks were also parked nearby.
A rubber bullet casing found near the Veterans General Hospital
At 18.40, Voice TV reported that the police fired tear gas and water cannon blasts at protesters gathered in front of the Veterans General Hospital. Several explosions could also be heard.
Even though the REDEM Telegram group announced at 20.05 that the protest had ended, by 21.33, the situation has already escalated into a crackdown on remaining protesters on Vibhavadi Road. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used without prior warning.
A protester who was leaving the protest site said that riot control police surrounded the protesters and blocked the exit on the Din Daeng side, so the protesters had to climb over the traffic island to get away from the police and leave the protest site.
It was also reported that one person was arrested after they crossed the road to retrieve their car that was parked on the other side, near where the police were stationed. The police also announced at one point that reporters must leave the road, or they would be arrested.
The Erawan Paramedic Centre reported at 22.45 that at least 16 people were injured during the clash. Meanwhile, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that 19 people were arrested and were taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters, one of whom was a reporter from Naewna.
TLHR reported today (1 March) that the Naewna reporter was released during the inquiry process, while 18 others were granted bail.