LIVE UPDATES: Protesters, police, pro-royalists clash in run-up to Thai rally (Photos)

Protesters are stopped at the final barricade between their march and the Government House.
Protesters are stopped at the final barricade between their march and the Government House.

Ed. note: Story follows updates at top.

5:30pm

Police are pushing through a small group of protesters close to the Government House as King Vajiralongkorn’s motorcade pushes through. Hundreds of protesters flashed three-finger salutes of defiance as his cream-colored Rolls-Royce passed.

5pm

Protesters are bottled up a few minutes’ walk from the Government House, unable to proceed further. shoving against traffic barriers and a line of cops after only advancing about 50 meters toward the entrance to the Government House.

4:15pm

Protesters are stopped at the final barricade between their march and the Government House.

Protesters are stopped at the final barricade between their march and the Government House.
Protesters are stopped at the final barricade between their march and the Government House.

3pm

Although no estimate is available, protesters numbering over 10,000 clearly outnumber the yellow-shirted security forces and royalist volunteers today. They are attempting to get through numerous blockades set up between the Democracy Monument and the Government House.

A large portrait of King Vajiralongkorn looms over protesters as they march along the royal avenue.
A large portrait of King Vajiralongkorn looms over protesters as they march along the royal avenue.

2:30pm

Protesters have begun their attempted march on the administrative seat of power at the Government House. Read from earlier: Thai government not sweating rally

2pm: Protesters gained control of the monument after removing potted plants placed to obstruct access.

Protesters remove potted plants placed to obstruct access to the Democracy Monument, a potent symbol of a popular uprising 47 years ago today.

 

1pm: Clashes have broken out with the large crowds of yellow-shirted royalists bused in by the government. The royalists swung sticks at protesters before being separated by police, after which the pro-democracy camp moved into the traffic circle to gather around the monument.  Our reporter covering the protest is being harassed by yellow-shirted royalists demanding ‘Who the fuck are you?’ or simply shouting, ‘Fuck you!’

 

There were signs of coordination between security forces and yellow-shirted royalists brought in by bus and truck today to counter the rally.

 

The People’s Party announced early Wednesday morning it would move up the gathering time at the Democracy Monument to 8am because unspecified groups were “trying to take control of the area” in advance. Later in the morning, men in yellow shirts, assumed to be police or soldiers out of uniform due to their identical crew cuts, began converging on the protest site, sparking fear of confrontation.

“Speaking up costs us a lot of things in this country,” organizers said in a statement this morning. “Brave activists and students who have come forward to voice their rightful critique against the junta have faced dire consequences, some were threatened, some were attacked, and some were forced to disappear.”

Photo: @TLHR2014 / Twitter
Photo: @TLHR2014 / Twitter

Photos posted to social media suggested that truckloads of yellow-clad men were being brought into the capital.

Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa this morning exhorted the authorities through a megaphone not to use violence against protesters, who plan to march on the Government House and demand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s resignation. 

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, police used force to disperse an advance rally held Tuesday afternoon, arresting 21 protesters. Images showed police kicking, punching and pushing some protesters to the ground. One movement leader, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattarasaksa, was dragged off bodily by officers. 

Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattarasaksa is carried away by police Tuesday afternoon in a still image captured from a live video of the incident.
Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattarasaksa is carried away by police Tuesday afternoon in a still image captured from a live video of the incident.

All the 21 are being detained at the 1st Region Patrol Police Division in Pathum Thani province. 

Thai government not sweating rally targeting its seat of power: deputy PM

Student protesters were facing off against pro-monarchy elements believed to be comprised of security forces this morning ahead of a pro-democracy rally set for 2pm.

Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to drop all charges and immediately release those arrested.

“The Thai government’s breakup of a peaceful democracy protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument just proved the protesters’ point,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, adding that it raised “serious concerns that the government will impose even harsher repression of people’s fundamental freedoms in Thailand.”

The monument remains a potent symbol, as today marks the 47th anniversary of a 1973 uprising against the military dictatorship of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn. Dozens of protesters were gunned down but the backlash succeeded in bringing down Thanom.

King Vajiralongkorn is presently in the country and scheduled to pass through the area in a motorcade at around 5pm. 

Roads may be closed and traffic affected around the area. 

Additional writing and reporting Todd Ruiz, Thitima Sukontaros

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