A journalist remains hospitalized in critical condition today after she was shot in the head at a protest, which even Thailand’s reticent journalist associations have condemned as indiscriminate police brutality.
At least 32 people were injured Saturday night when police in riot gear dispersed a protest in and around Bangkok’s Sanam Luang by opening fire with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
Among those injured were an unknown number of journalists including Khaosod reporter Thanyalak Wannakote and Prachatai reporter Sarayut Tangprasert, the latter of whom was shot in the back with a rubber bullet, while they were providing live video coverage for their agencies. Channel 8 reporter Panitnat Prombangkoed is still in a hospital ICU after she was shot in the head.
Royal Thai Police spokesman Yingyos Thepjamnong used the pandemic as cover for those actions, saying Sunday that all police violence were necessary measures to disperse the crowd, which was in violation of the emergency decree and posed a risk of spreading COVID-19.
Six Thai media associations signed onto a joint statement condemning police brutality and demanding the authorities clearly inform protesters and members of the media in advance about actions they will take to avoid injury.
The statement also asked media agencies to ensure the safety of their reporters and “equip them with appropriate protective gear” while reporters were reminded to wear armbands at all times and “carefully assess risks.”
Public use of some protective gear, like body armor commonly worn when covering conflict elsewhere, is banned in Thailand.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand this morning backed the Thai media associations and drew attention to U.N. guidelines on the use of non-lethal force.
“[We] urge the Thai authorities to recognize that journalists covering the protests are doing their jobs and should not be targeted,” it said.
— FCCThai (@FCCThai) March 22, 2021
Saturday’s violence came just weeks after a Feb. 28 rally where police shot people with rubber bullets among other aggressive tactics that reportedly left 16 people injured.
Bangkok’s bars and restaurants are open at full capacity as the threat of COVID-19 has receded since last month.
Health officials confirmed 73 new cases today and one additional death, increasing the total tally since the pandemic started last year to 27,286 infections and 91 fatalities.