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Friday, April 23, 2021

Thailand protesters in latest clash with police

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Police on Saturday had to use water cannons and rubber bullets outside Bangkok’s Grand Palace after demonstrators had broke through a barracde of shipping containers demanding a reform to the Kingdom’s unassailable monarchy.

This was just another night of unrest since Thailand’s protest movement started back in July, demanding for an overhaul of Premier Prayuth Chan­ocha’s administration and a rewrite of a military­scripted constitution.

Most the controversial demands have called for the reform to the monarchy, including the abolition of draconian royal defamation laws.

In Sanam Luang, a historic field in front of the palace, a wall of cargo containers, two containers high had been built in order to keep the protestors away, However, with just a hour into the rally, the protestors had used ropes to pull the top row of boxes, allowing a small opening.

“You’re breaking the law!” said the police over an announcer as protesters used ropes to pull the lower containers out of place.

After the protestors were able to get through, they started throwing Molotov cocktails at police who were standing buy with water cannon trucks 100 metres away. Police used the jets to stop the protesters from coming closer.

“Release our friends!” protesters shouted, referring to prominent activists who have been detained since earlier this year.

Some protestors had also set fire to objects and car tyres during the clash near the royal palace in Bangkok.

Police managed to chase proetors away from the area but firing a continues flow of rubber bullets, AFP reporters on the ground.

Fortunatley by 8:30pm. most the demonstrators had dispersed, leaving only hardcore activists still at the scene.

Before the clash, protester Am­Nawat Liangwattana said the use of shipping containers as barricades meant authorities were getting serious about “limiting our freedom of speech”.

Protesters had planned to read aloud passages from “The Institution of Monarchy in Thailand’s Society”, a book written by now­detained prominent protest leader Anon Numpa.

Earlier in the day, police had raided Thai publishing house Same Sky Books and confiscated some 100 copies of Anon’s book.

“The authorities might be afraid of the content … But the more they confine us, the more we need to come out,” Am­Nawat said.

The reading did not happen, because of the police crackdown.

Of the books, Police Major Trirong Prasopmongkol said the force would “have experts examine the content to see whether it is illegal”.

“This raid is related to the protest today because protesters said on social media that they will distribute these books,” he said.

Same Sky Books later said on its Facebook page that while it had copies of Anon’s book, “we were not the ones who printed them”.

Since the movement kicked off, more than 60 people have been charged under Thailand’s royal defamation laws, and a handful of the most prominent leaders have been detained.

The laws shield the ultra­powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his family from defamation, but rights groups say their broad use means anything perceived as criticism can land a person in jail for up to 15 years per charge.

During Saturday’s clashes, the monarch was visiting the historic city of Ayutthaya – about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the capital – with the queen and his royal consort, according to the nightly royal news.

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