Protesters return to streets after police clashes in Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand - Thousands of Thai pro-democracy protesters massed in multiple locations across Bangkok on Saturday, defying an emergency decree banning gatherings for the third consecutive day after confrontations saw riot police use water cannon on peaceful demonstrators.
Officers dispersed thousands of protestors on Friday night by spraying water laced with blue dye and a chemical agent to mark participants for future legal action. But the escalation in police tactics has not cowed the burgeoning youth-led protest movement, which is demanding the resignation of a premier first brought to power in a military coup and reform of the kingdom’s powerful monarchy.
One of the pro-democracy movement’s main organising groups called on its supporters to return to the streets on Saturday afternoon.
“Be prepared both physically and mentally for the demonstration and to cope with a crackdown if it happens,” the online post from Free Youth said.
An hour before the scheduled 4.00pm protest start, the group announced three different locations for rallies - outsmarting authorities that had closed roads to two suspected venues that ended up not being the meeting points.
In the city’s northern Lat Phrao district, hundreds gathered in the middle of a street with helmets and gas masks ready, raising a three-finger salute adopted from the Hunger Games films as a symbol by the prodemocracy movement.
Across the Chao Phraya river, nearly a thousand rallied in the western Wongwian Yai district chanting ‘Long live the people, down with dictatorship!’, while in southeastern Udomsuk a similar show of force brought busy traffic to a standstill.
Operators of both the Skytrain and underground rail networks had shut down services citywide to prevent protesters from joining. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha extended an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people by another month on Friday.