BANGKOK, Aug. 10 (Reuters) – Thai police fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who took to the streets of Bangkok on Tuesday amid anger over the management of the coronavirus pandemic by the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
At least six police officers were injured in the clashes, with one officer shot in the leg and three others hit by shrapnel from a homemade bomb, police said.
The number of injured protesters was not known. At least six protesters have been arrested, police said after warning earlier that all public gatherings were illegal under COVID-19 emergency rules.
Two police stations were also set on fire as sporadic violence continued into the night.
“The action of the demonstrators shows the intention to damage government property and the public as well as to injure the police,” Piya Tavicha, deputy chief of police in Bangkok, told reporters.
The clashes erupted after thousands of protesters drove a convoy of cars and motorcycles through the capital.
They stopped at several buildings linked to cabinet members or supporters of Prayuth to deliver speeches and call for resignations, accusing the government of mismanaging the pandemic and abusing its power to silence critics.
“The government does not have the capacity to run the country and only sees the interests of the elite,” said Benja Apan, a student activist, in a statement read from a truck in the business district of Bangkok.
“If the situation remains so, we can expect the country to face an insurmountable disaster,” she said.
Hospitals have been pushed to the brink by the latest wave of cases, and Thailand on Tuesday reported a record COVID-19 death toll of 235 – nearly four times more than in all of last year. The total death toll in Thailand since the start of the pandemic is 6,588.
The youth-led protest movement in Thailand appears to be picking up steam after protests last year drew hundreds of thousands before a crackdown by authorities.
Protesters also broke traditional taboos by demanding reform of the monarchy, risking prosecution under a lese majesté law that renders insults or defamation of the king, queen, heir and regent. punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Over the past weekend, more than a thousand anti-government protesters clashed with police. Read more
Protest leaders who had spent time in jail in previous protests and who were released on bail have been returned to custody in recent days, including Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jadnok, Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak .
Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa also faced further lese majesty and other charges for a speech he gave last week. Read more
Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Jiraporn Kuhakan Editing by Ed Davies and Angus MacSwan
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