Hundreds of police in riot gear marched on protesters Friday night in downtown Bangkok, using water cannons and force to disperse the crowd.
Angry crowds were gathering at various points downtown after police advanced on remaining protesters for a third time at 8pm, firing water cannons to clear the streets. There were many reports that the water contained some type of chemical irritant.
“Please don’t use your batons, even if your boss ordered you,” a man was heard exhorting the police at 8:14pm. The streets were mostly quiet as of 9pm, but hundreds of riot police remained stationed at various locations.
About half an hour earlier, one crowd was gathering to protest the dispersal to the south at Sala Daeng Intersection, shouting “Dictator’s slaves” at the security forces. One protest group was calling for a flash mob to assemble at 9:30pm at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus. A rally formed against the crackdown in the northern city of Chiang Mai.
An organizer with People’s Party, the umbrella protest group, called off the rally at around 8pm. A police spokesman said the protests were being dispersed in a legal manner consistent with international practices. There were reports that at least one protester and four cops sustained injuries. An unknown number of arrests have been made, but numerous clips shared on social media showed young people being grabbed and placed into police vehicles. At around 8:45pm, police detention vans retreated from a growing crowd demanding their release.
Skirmishes first broke out just before 7pm when riot police marched on those gathering for a third day of protests. Marching in ranks on the peaceful gathering, the officers approached the gathering at Pathum Wan Intersection by the MBK Center shopping mall, threatening to arrest all who remained.
None of the protesters appeared to be armed and no weapons could be seen used apart from thrown water bottles.
“Get out!” the crowd, which includes many students, yelled at the police, and “Fuck Prayuth!” in reference to the coup leader-turned-prime minister they have been calling on to step down.
Just before they charged the demonstrators, they fired water cannons that knocked people, many young demonstrators, to the ground. Those present said there was blue-colored stain and possibly an irritant in the water.
Social media users were sharing tactics on how to handle water cannons learned in Hong Kong using the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance.
After protesters regrouped nearby by Siam Square, police advanced again at 7:15pm. There were conflicting accounts of whether tear gas was used. Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen, police spokesperson, said the blue water shot from the truck did not contain tear gas.
Nattawut Sattarin told Coconuts Bangkok that he was on the front line at Pathum Wan when water mixed a chemical was sprayed toward them.
“I got just a light spray and my eyes felt burning,” he said. “My friend got it full in the face; it’s terrible.”
Many protesters retreated to the campus of nearby Chulalongkorn University for safety.
At 7:30pm, police issued another order to disperse before advancing again on those still there, firing water cannons.
At around 9pm, the BTS Skytrain reopened all stations.
NOW at Sala Daeng intersection on Silom Road: Angry crowd shouting “Dictator’s slaves” at a protest against tonight’s forced dispersal at Pathumwan. #16ตุลาไปราชประสงค์ #ม็อบ16ตุลา #WhatshappeninginThailand pic.twitter.com/uWZI7cwU9V
— Coconuts Bangkok (@CoconutsBangkok) October 16, 2020
— May Wong (@MayWongCNA) October 16, 2020
Situation is escalating now – pic.twitter.com/VGIK8veikT
— Florian Witulski (@vaitor) October 16, 2020
— กุเซ็งงง (@momhanjisung) October 16, 2020
TW // Violence, Human Rights Violation
— YoungK Fans_TH (@youngkfansth) October 16, 2020
Finally,Thai government did it.high power of water was shoot to the protest with umbrella and bare hand pls help us if u see this tw spread this new to all organizations around the world. We need help #16ตุลาไปแยกปทุมวัน#whatishappeninginthailand pic.twitter.com/OkMfWyHaMP
— . lll (@chanbae_lyn) October 16, 2020
— 24h (@nontoxicpls) October 16, 2020
Plans for another rally today at Ratchaprasong Intersection were changed at the last minute after the intersection was shut down and surrounded with barbed wire.
The protest umbrella group announced just before 5pm that people would gather just down the road at Pathum Wan Intersection in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, a site of frequent protests. The BTS Skytrain has announced that trains will not stop at BTS Chit Lom and Ratchadamri, citing the state of extreme emergency.
The government closed BTS Siam, Chit Lom, Ratchadamri, National Stadium and Ratchathewi stations as well as MRT Sam Yan, hamstringing essential transportation just as people are likely to be heading home on Friday evening.
Police estimated that 13,000 people converged on Ratchaprasong Intersection yesterday. Officers struggled to keep them away but ended up being pushed out by the sheer number of people who showed up. The rally dispersed peacefully at 10pm.
Things escalated on Wednesday, the 47th anniversary of a 1973 uprising against military dictatorship, when a motorcade carrying the queen left its announced route to pass by protesters who shouted obscenities at the vehicle and displayed defiant salutes. Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who staged a coup in 2014 and now serves as prime minister, cited that for imposing an state of “extreme emergency” over the capital.