Activist Shinawat Chankrajang and another protester were arrested in front of the Ministry of Public Health on Friday (16 July) during a protest over the Covid-19 vaccination programme, while two other protesters and one police officer were injured.
On Friday afternoon (16 July), people gathered near the Ministry of Public Health to demand an explanation of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and to demand that the government provide the public with mRNA vaccines. They called on Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to respond by 17.00.
During the protest, police officers lined up in front of the entrance to the Ministry and told the protesters that their gathering as an offence under the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act. In response, Shinawat asked whether it is also illegal that Anutin is negligent and allowing Thai people to die every day, and demanded that Anutin answer whether the government will be able to supply the public with mRNA vaccines.
At around 15.10, Shinawat announced that they would be staying until 17.00, and the officers must bring them Anutin’s explanation about the vaccines in a voice clip or any other form of recording. The protesters also put up body-like figures on a table in front of the police line, while activist Thanadet Srisongkhram announced that the people need the Pfizer vaccine, not the Sinovac vaccine, which is ineffective. He also said that people are not lab rats and that they want vaccines they can choose.
At 17.00, the protesters marched up to the Ministry gates which were blocked by policewho announced that anyone breaking into the Ministry would be taken to the police station , and that if they do not comply, the police may use force. Officers began to surround the protesters, who were pushing and kicking the officers’ shields.
Police officers then tried to arrest Thanadet, so protesters tried to pull him away. During the clash, one of the plainclothes officers arresting Thanadet fell to the ground. After the clash, Thanadet was found to have an injury to his head. The officer was also reportedly injured
It was later reported that Shinawat was also arrested. He was taken inside the Ministry, so the protesters were not able to follow him. Another protester was also reported to be injured and was taken to an emergency room.
Shinawat and one other protester who was arrested were taken to the Khlong Ha Police Station in Pathum Thani. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that they were charged with sedition, holding a gathering of more than 10 people and causing a breach of peace, violating the Emergency Decree, assaulting an officer, and obstructing by force an official in the execution of their duty.
Both denied all charges. On Saturday morning (17 July), they were taken to the Nonthaburi Provincial Court for a temporary detention request. The Court approved the request, but granted them bail without requiring a security.
Police officers also confiscated the keys to the protesters’ speaker truck and refused to give them back despite demands from the remaining protesters, who pushed the truck to the gates. An officer then came to negotiate with the truck’s owner, who asked for his truck key back as his house key was attached to the truck key and he had to use the truck that night.
By 19.20, crowd control police joined the officers in front of the Ministry, while protesters were still gathering in the area to wait for the truck keys to be returned. The police said they wanted to search the truck, but the owner consulted a lawyer and was told not to let the police search the truck.
At 19.45, with the 21.00 curfew approaching, the police still had not returned the truck key and had brought a tow truck from inside the Ministry, so the protesters lay down in front of the truck and demanded that the police wait for a lawyer to arrive.
At around 20.20, following negotiations with the lawyer, the truck was towed away. TLHR later reported that the truck’s owner received a fine of 100 baht under the Sound Amplifier Act before he was released. His hand was also injured when an officer reached into the truck to pull the keys out.