78 people arrested in Din Daeng clash; media prevented from filming

78 people including minors, volunteer medics, and bystanders have been arrested following a clash between protesters and crowd control police on Saturday night (11 September).

Protesters on Vibhavadi Road (Picture by Ginger Cat)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that 9 of the 78 people arrested were minors, and that 20 of the detainees were not participating in the protest but were motorcycle taxi drivers, taxi drivers, and food vendors at the protest site.

The detainees were detained at several police agencies in the area. 8 were taken to Phaholyothin Police Station, 21 to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, and 24 to Don Mueang Police Station

Police officers in bulletproof vests guarding the Din Daeng Police Station

25 volunteer medics were also detained. They were initially held at the Royal Thai Army Band Department headquarters and later taken to Din Daeng Police Station. They were released at 1.40 on Sunday (12 September) without charge. They were told to register themselves with the metropolitan police in order to work at protest sites and not to leave their residences after curfew.

While the medics were detained, lawyers went to meet them at Din Daeng Police Station, but the police would not allow the lawyers to see them, claiming that they were not being charged and therefore could not see a lawyer. The police also forced the lawyers to leave the area in front of the police station, claiming safety reasons, and said that the police station is off limits. They were finally allowed to meet the medics at around 00.35.

The police station building was surrounded with razor wire and guarded by officers in bulletproof vests carrying firearms, while all the building lights were turned off. While the lawyers were negotiating with the police to see the detained medics, 10 police motorcycles, 5 police trucks, and at least 2 military Humvees were seen leaving the police station.

Crowd control police stationed in an alley near the Din Daeng Intersection (Picture by Ginger Cat)

During the clash, which began in the evening, crowd control police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, who retaliated with firecrackers and other small explosives. Crowd control police were also reported to have fired tear gas and rubber bullets into nearby houses and apartment buildings. Residents who came to ask the officers to leave their community were also threatened with arrest as the officers claimed they were breaking the curfew.

iLaw reported heavy use of tear gas by the police at around 20.45, 15 minutes before the 21.00 curfew, affecting bystanders, one of whom reported chest pain and needed first aid. iLaw also noted that crowd control police were firing rubber bullets out of the Army Band headquarters, firing tear gas from the overpass in front of the Veterans General Hospital. At around 21.00, crowd control police pushed protesters out of Mit Maitri Road and surrounded an apartment building on Din Daeng 1 Road. There are also reports that crowd control police searched the apartment building for protesters.

Voice TV reported that for 40 minutes from 22.00, crowd control police continuously fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and marbles at the Din Daeng 1 apartment building, after protesters went into the building to escape arrest. Windows and walls in the building were damaged, and several residents had to leave their homes to stay elsewhere. There was also a report that a protester fell from the apartment building and was injured.

Damages inside a residence near the protest site (Picture by Ginger Cat)

Journalists in the field also reported that the police attempted to limit coverage of the clash and were threatened them with violation of the Emergency Decree charges. Crowd control police ordered a group of journalists gathering near the Din Daeng District Office to sit down and to end their live broadcast while officers checked their press IDs. Crowd control police also prohibited journalists from covering events at the nearby apartment buildings.

Voice TV reported that journalists were asked to leave the area in front of the Din Daeng 1 apartment building, and were ordered to end their live broadcast during the police operation. The police also checked the identification of journalists and volunteer medics in the area, as well as passers-by.

At around 22.40, The Reporters posted on their Facebook page that they havd to end their coverage as the police had ordered journalists to leave the area or face arrest for breaking the curfew.

The Din Daeng intersection and surrounding area have been the site of daily clashes for the past month, as protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. According to TLHR, at least 225 people were arrested at the Din Daeng protests in August alone, at least 15 of whom were under 15 years old and at least 62 were between 15 - 18 years old.

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