The activist group Thalufah returned in a third protest march to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, which ended again with police violence.
Protesters preparing to march to the Government House
Protesters gathered at the Victory Monument on Monday (16 August) for a protest against the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic and to demand that Gen Prayut resign unconditionally. The group previously planned to march to the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters, where Gen Prayut lives in free army housing despite having retired, but later changed their destination to Government House after Soi Paholyothin 2, part of the route they planned to take to the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters, was blocked with a row of containers.
Before the march, police officers carrying a search warrant from the Dusit Municipal Court searched the residence of a Thalufah group member. The warrant stated that the police are looking for equipment “related to a violation of the Emergency Decree” and that they are searching for a black Isuzu pickup truck and sound amplifiers.
The group told the officers that they can only search the house once their lawyer arrived, so the officers said that they would wait outside but those inside the house must stay together and not wander around. The group later took the vehicle to Din Daeng Police Station to be searched.
Thalufah also posted on their Facebook page that a GPS device was found attached to one of their vehicles, which was confiscated by the police and taken to Thung Song Hong Police Station following the protest on 2 August 2021.
The GPS device appeared to be of the same model as the one former Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich said was found under her car last week.
Protesters burned effigies ahead of their march
At around 16.20, protesters gathered at the Victory Monument to burn effigies representing those who died from Covid-19, before starting their march to Government House.
They arrived at the Nang Loeng intersection at around 17.00 and found Phitsanulok Road blocked by a barrier of razor wire and containers, as well as a unit of crowd control police and a water cannon truck.
The protesters’ speaker truck stopped in front of the barrier, while a speaker asked the participants not to break down the barriers or throw objects other than plastic bags containing paint at the officers.
Police barrier on Phitsanulok Road
At 17.45, several protesters attempted to remove the razor wire. The police issued a warning for them not to do so, before firing water cannon at the protesters. Several protesters then threw firecrackers across the razor wire barrier, as the organisers called for the protesters to back away from the barrier.
At 17.50, Thalufah announced the conclusion of the protest, while the police continued to fire water cannon and tear gas at the protesters, some of whom were throwing firecrackers and other objects at the police.
Protesters flashing the three-fnger salute as they head to the Government House
The 17 August 2021 march to the Government House was the third protest organized by the Thalufah group. The group previously organized 2 marches to the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters, both of which were forcibly dispersed by crowd control police.
13 arrested, 2 shot during clash at Din Daeng intersection
After the protest at the Nang Loeng intersection was dispersed, some protesters left for the Din Daeng intersection, where they once again clashed with crowd control police. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that 13 people were arrested and charged with violating the Emergency Decree by being out after curfew and taking part in activities risking the spread of Covid-19. Some were also charged with carrying a weapon in public.
TLHR also said that two of those arrested were pizza delivery riders who were not participating in the protest. Another detainee was also a delivery worker living in a flat behind Din Daeng Police Station and was driving home after work. He was waiting until the situation died down before returning home at around 22.00, but was searched and arrested. He was charged with carrying a weapon in public after the police found a pocket knife in his car.
Five of those arrested were under 18 years old. They were released at around 3.15 after the inquiry officer made a record of their arrest. The remaining 8 people were taken to the Bangkok North Municipal Court for a temporary detention request earlier today (17 August).
The Court approved of the temporary detention request, but granted them bail without requiring security. The Court also set the condition that they do not repeat their offense.
Meanwhile, the 5 minors went to the Central Juvenile and Family Court, where the inquiry officer asked the court to detain them. However, the Court released them without requiring security. They also have to report to the Bangna Juvenile Detention Centre on 24 August 2021.
Video footage showing a person carrying a firearm inside the Din Daeng Police Station
Two teenagers were also reported to have been shot with live rounds near Din Daeng Police Station. One person was shot in the neck and was taken to Rajavithi Hospital. The hospital issued a statement earlier today (17 August) that he suffered gunshot wounds with one bullet remaining in his brain, and that his cervical vertebrae were fractured. He is currently in the intensive care unit and is in a coma.
The protester was previously reported to be 20 years old. However, his mother told Voice TV that he is only 15 years old. She said that her son told her he was bringing clothes to his friends, and that it was his first time participating in a protest.
Another 14-year-old protester was shot in the shoulder and was taken to Chulalongkorn Hospital. He said that he was shot while riding a motorcycle past Din Daeng Police Station and did not see the person who shot him.
A video clip was circulated showing a person in Din Daeng Police Station shooting at protesters. The superintendent of Din Daeng Police Station claimed that no live rounds were used during the police operation.
Protester returns after being shot with rubber bullet
Waranya, one of the protesters at the 16 August protest, said she was shot with a rubber bullet when crowd control police forcibly dispersed the 11 August 2021 protest at the Victory Monument.
She said that she was shot from around 100 metres away, and that the crowd control police were shooting indiscriminately at the protesters and bystanders. She also said she saw the police shooting at a nearby bus stop, where mainly elderly people were waiting and had to hide behind the bus stop sign.
Waranya was shot in the stomach, and still had a large bruise.
“Why do Thai officers shoot people like this? I have been saying that I’ve never thought of hurting crowd control police. I understand that they are low-ranking officers doing their duty. My job is to try to stop the kids, stop our children, but why is the result like this?” Waranya said.
Waranya still has a large bruise on her stomach five days after being shot with a rubber bullet
Nevertheless, Waranya said she is not afraid. She continues to return to the protests because she is worried about the young protesters, and said she would like people to know that the protesters were not hired but were there of their own will.
“Even if they’re not my children, but my future is in their hands, not an old man who is the military’s slave. It’s not right if you’re a police officer but you’re under the heel of a dictator. I wanted to say that we have nothing against the crowd control police. Our aim is to oust Prayut,” Waranya said.
Covid-19 has left musicians without income, says drummer performing at Victory Monument
A drummer named Pae came to perform while the protesters are waiting at the Victory Monument, placing a sign saying “unemployed musician” in front of his drums.
Pae is taking a stand by performing at the protest to show that artists are suffering under this government, and said he wanted to entertain his fellow protesters.
He said that he used to perform at various nightlife establishments and was hired to perform at events, but the Covid-19 pandemic took away all of his income as there is nowhere for him to perform. He used to earn around 40,000 – 50,000 baht a month, and said that some musicians could earn up to 100,000 baht, but since the start of the pandemic in 2020, he earned nothing at all.
The sign in front of Pae's drums says "unemployed musician"
Pae said it has been difficult to access government aid schemes, vaccines, or even Covid-19 tests. He himself is not vaccinated as he has not been able to get a booking.
“The government can’t do anything. I understand that this government can’t do anything. This is how it is. Everyone knows that this is how it’s going to be. I’m just praying that if they can’t do it, then they should leave so that people who can do better come in and do it instead,” Pae said.