Protests took place on Sunday (15 August) in at least 16 provinces across the country against the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Protesters at the Democracy Monument
In Bangkok, at least 3 “car mob” protest caravans took place in different locations, one beginning at the Ratchaprasong intersection, led by former Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar, the second starting at the Democracy Monument, led by the activist group Thalufah and the protest guard group We Volunteer, and the third led by activist Sombat Boonngamanong starting in Ayutthaya and heading to the Lad Phrao intersection.
At 12.55, five minutes before the starting time of the caravan from Ayutthaya, police officers announced that the provincial authorities have banned gatherings of more than 5 people, while both uniformed and plainclothes officers took pictures of vehicles joining the protest. The police also threatened to press charges against the organisers.
Nattawut said before the start of the caravan that Gen Prayut has run out of legitimacy to stay in power and people from all walks of life will be coming together under one goal, that the prime minister is no longer able to handle the current crises facing the country.
“When you buy time, it is equal to allowing more and more Thai people to get hurt and die, for more and more businesses and careers to be destroyed, and we can no longer wait,” Nattawut said.
Nattawut also said that the protests must be nonviolent and that protesters are to avoid clashes, because violence would alienate people from the movement and obscure their demands. He said that he is concerned about such unwanted situations, so each route has been planned to avoid sensitive locations. The protest must also end simultaneously at 18.00.
“There is no condition that would create a confrontation, and our opponents are not the police officers, not civil servants,” Nattawut said.
Protesters at the Ratchaprasong Intersection
Nattawut said that he is on the side of the young people and called on all sides to end the violence, starting with the authorities who must show that they have standards in performing their duties.
“Today, the government clearly shows its fraudulent intent by not taking responsibility for the losses of the country and the people. People have not stopped dying, but the government has already decided to give a complete amnesty to administrators,” Nattawut said.
“Doctors and nurses at the frontline were worked to death but were not given Pfizer vaccinations. This country has both the VIPs and VVIPs but those who work have no rights to access proper and equal treatment.”
Protesters passing through Paholyothin Road
During the protest, Nattawut conducted interviews live on UDD News’ Facebook page, featuring various well-known figures from the pro-democracy protests. Former Pheu Thai MP Dr Tossapon Serirak talked about the allocation of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines donated by the US, and said that he has received complaints that frontline workers are not receiving enough vaccines, while the names of those who do not work in hospitals appeared on lists of Pfizer vaccine recipients.
He said that he went to meet Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on 11 August to ask that the Pfizer vaccine be given to all frontline workers from doctors and nurses to volunteers, monks, and undertakers.
He also said that he has been informed that staff at the Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital who gave him information about discrepancies in the lists of those who will receive the Pfizer vaccines have been called in for a meeting with their superiors, and that he will be meeting with the Air Force Commander himself if action is taken against the staff.
Dr Tossapon said on Saturday (14 August) that he has been informed that names of staff from other agencies, retired medical staff, and medical students who already graduated appeared on the list of people to receive the Pfizer vaccine at the Bhumibol Hospital, while some frontliners were left off the list.
“If next week, there is a problem, I will go in and talk to the Air Force Commander myself. You should be taking good care of your staff, because you have quality staff. Not only do they take care of the Air Force, but they also take care of the public, so they have to be safe from Covid-19 so they can treat other people,” Dr Tossapon said.
Feminist’s Liberation Front and Seri Toey Plus' caravan on Paholyothin Road
The Nakhon Pathom Citizens group organized their own protest, which met at 11.00 at Phra Pathom Chedi. The caravan circled the stupa once before heading into Bangkok.
Meanwhile, the gender equality activist groups Feminist’s Liberation Front and Seri Toey Plus led another caravan starting from Silom and heading to join Sombat’s caravan at the Lad Phrao intersection via the Victory Monument and Phahonyothin Road.
Protesters rode past the Provincial Police Region 5 headquarters in Chiang Mai (Photo by Wanna Taemtong)
Protests also took place in Nonthaburi, Chai Nat, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Nong Khai, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Phang Nga.
Protesters clash with crowd control police at Din Daeng intersection
Despite the three Bangkok protest routes avoiding risky locations and with no protest planned at the Din Daeng intersection, it was reported at 16.55 that some protesters went to the intersection, which had been blocked with a row of containers.
The protesters then clashed with crowd control police stationed in the area. Objects were thrown at the police, while firecrackers and fireworks were lit. The police retaliated by continuously firing tear gas and water cannon at the protesters. A water cannon truck was also seen shooting blasts of water mixed with chemical irritants from the Din Daeng highway. It was also reported that a long range acoustic device (LRAD) was used against the protesters.
Nattawut speaking from a speaker truck during the clash at the Din Daeng Intersection
At around 18.00, Nattawut arrived at the Din Daeng Intersection on a pickup truck carrying several speakers to calm the crowd. He asked that the protesters return home and said that he would negotiate with the police to have them stop using force on the protesters.
Nattawut said that he is concerned about the protesters, and that they have already won just by the number of people who turned up to the protest. He said that there is no point in confronting the police and called for those on the frontline to retreat and to go home.
However, while part of the crowd retreated left with Nattawut, some protesters remained. At around 19.00, firecrackers were still heard, and by 19.50, as crowd control police closed in on the protesters, the remaining crowd retaliated by firing fireworks at them.
A row of containers blocking the Din Daeng Intersection
Voice TV reported at 20.33 that crowd control police ran to the entrance of a nearby condominium, firing rubber bullets into the condominium area and ordering bystanders to return to their residences. The officers also shouted profanities at bystanders, while a Voice TV reporter was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet.
Crowd control officers also continued to fire tear gas and rubber bullets as they pushed towards the Victory Monument, where the remaining protesters gathered. The situation continued until around 20.30, when all of the protesters left the area.
A checkpoint in front of the Rajawithi Hospital
There was also a report that military and police officers set up a checkpoint in front of Rajavithi Hospital and searched every motorcycle and pickup truck leaving the Victory Monument, claiming that the search is normal near the 21.00 curfew.
It was also noticed that some motorcycles were not searched, after the passengers, dressed like vocational school students, identified themselves to the officers at the checkpoint as police from Phaya Thai Police Station.