Three reporters were injured during the protest on Sunday (18 July), after being hit with rubber bullets, despite wearing visible press armbands and ID cards.
Thanapong Kengpaiboon from the online magazine Plus Seven was hit in the hip with a rubber bullet while covering the clash between protesters and crowd control police at the Phan Fa Lilat intersection at around 15.50.
Thanapong said that he was taking pictures of protesters trying to remove the razor wire used as blockade. He said that the police issued no warning before firing 3 – 4 rounds of rubber bullets into the area where he was standing, and that they announced only that they would be firing water containing dye.
He also said that was standing next to a wall with a group of other reporters, and that he was wearing the press armband issued by the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), which has been used to identify field reporters covering protests since 2020, as well as a press ID card.
Thanapong said he was lucky that he was wearing thick jeans, but there was still bruising where he was shot. He has been covering the protests since 2020 and has previously been hit with tear gas and water cannon blasts.
“I don’t know if it’s bad that I feel like I’m used to it, but I’m tired of it. Without notice, they fire into a group that they should know are reporters, because it wasn’t just me who was a reporter and was standing there, and they fired without any warning,” Thanapong said, adding that he wants to press charges against the officers and is looking for a way to do so.
Matichon TV photographer Peerapong Pongnak was also shot with a rubber bullet in his left arm. Matichon reported that Peerapong was shot at the Phan Fa Lilat Bridge, while he was covering the march to the Government House via Ratchadamneon Avenue, which was blocked by crowd control police and water cannon trucks.
Peerapong said that the police began firing water cannon blasts at the protesters and announced that they would be escalating their operation, but he did not hear the police announce that they were going to use rubber bullets.
ช่างภาพ The MATTER ถูกยิงโดยกระสุนยางระหว่างปฏิบัติหน้าที่ แผลเป็นรอยช้ำชัดเจนที่แขนซ้าย โดยระหว่างปฏิบัติหน้าที่ได้สวมปลอกแขนผู้สื่อข่าวอย่างชัดเจน ล่าสุดได้เข้ารับการรักษาที่โรงพยาบาลแล้ว pic.twitter.com/xvAA7bCeXO
— The MATTER (@thematterco) July 18, 2021
A photographer from The Matter was also shot with a rubber bullet in the left arm and was taken to a hospital for treatment. The Matter later posted a picture showing the bruise on the photographer’s arm and stated that they were visibly wearing a press armband when they were covering the protest.
At the protest at Sanam Luang on 20 March 2021, during which crowd control police deployed rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon indiscriminately against the crowd, Prachatai reporter Sarayut Tangprasert was shot in the back by a rubber bullet while livestreaming from the Kok Wua Intersection. He was also wearing the TJA’s press armband. Journalists from Channel 8 and Khaosod were also injured by rubber bullets during the same protest.
Sarayut later filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court against the Royal Thai Police and Police Chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk for unlawful dispersal of the protest by firing rubber bullets, blocking the route to the nearest hospital and using excessive force on working journalists. He also asked the court for an emergency inquiry for an injunction. However, the court dismissed the case on the ground that they cannot issue an order controlling the police’s action at future protests, while the investigation into the officers involved is under the authority of the police headquarters.
The protest on Sunday started at the Democracy Monument, before marching to Government House to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the reduction of the budget for the monarchy and military to increase Covid-19 assistance, and replacement of the Sinovac vaccine with mRNA vaccines. However, protesters were met with crowd control police armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon trucks. They were blocked from reaching Government House and gathered at the Nang Loeng intersection to burn mock body bags and a figure of Gen Prayut before announcing the conclusion of the protest.