Thai riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse a group of hundreds of young protesters marching on the base where Prime Minister Prayuth Cha-ocha resides to demand his resignation.
During the long confrontation in Bangkok’s Din Daeng, demonstrators used rocks, bottles and fireworks to throw rocks and fire slingshots. The scene was obscured by swirling smoke.
Free Youth, a student protest organization that attracted tens of thousands last year, led the rally. The group is demanding Prayuth’s resignation for his handling of coronavirus crises. This has led to a spiraling number of cases and stretched the system’s resources. Prayuth was criticized for his slow vaccination program.
On Saturday, Thailand recorded a record 21,838 confirmed cases and 212 deaths. For weeks, Bangkok and the surrounding provinces were under lockdown.
Five people, including three officers, were admitted to hospital by the Erawan Medical Center emergency service. Although the march was canceled in the evening, protestors continued to fight the police and throw objects at them.
Protesters also demand that part of the budget allocated to the monarchy or military be used for the COVID-19 campaign.
Saturday’s protest was initially planned for an area near the Grand Palace, the capital’s old part. But it was moved to the compound at the 1st Infantry Regiment where Prayuth, a former general who took power in a coup in 2014, continues to live.
The protest movement started last year with calls for radical political change. This included unprecedented public demands for reform of the powerful monarchy in order to make it more accountable.
Protests went dormant after internal disputes, prosecutions, and the pandemic. However, they have been resurgent in recent weeks due to growing discontent about the government’s response and its huge impact on the economy which is heavily dependent on tourism.