Thai police protest treatment - at the hands of anti-government demonstrators 

Hundreds of police officers are complaining that orders to be restrained prevent them from dealing with protesters

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The Independent Online

Thai police staged a protest today to vent their frustration after weeks of dealing with anti-government demonstrators.

Four days after a policeman was shot dead in a pitched battle with demonstrators, who had been trying to stop candidates from registering for February elections, officers are complaining that orders they've received asking them to show restraint has left them vulnerable and humiliated. 

About 500 police gathered with family and friends in a public square near the main protest camp in Bangkok.

Officers came to mourn their dead colleague, and to complain that they were not properly equipped to defend themselves.

The demonstrators are demanding that the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra makes way for an appointed council to institute political reforms and eradicate corruption before any polls. 

At least eight people have been killed in intermittent violence since the demonstrations began about two months ago. At the government's orders, police have responded with relative restraint despite what they call severe provocation. 

Police Col. Niwat Puenguthaisri, who led the gathering, said police were worried for their own safety due to a lack of protective gear, and poor riot control planning. Most police are allowed to carry only batons and riot shields, while only a few officers are equipped with tear gas canisters and guns to fire rubber bullets. 

Orders to show restraint have resulted in police being trapped several times by demonstrators and forced to bargain for their release. 

"We come here today to say that we have remained patient to the utmost. But we want to say that we have dignity and we want to protect that, too," said Niwat. 

Monday was an unusual day of calm in Bangkok, although protesters continued to block candidate registrations in about half a dozen southern provinces, which are strongholds of the opposition Democrat Party. If there is a failure of elections in a number of constituencies, it may not be possible to get enough lawmakers to legally open parliament.

The Democrats are boycotting the polls, claiming that to contest them would disappoint their supporters who want political reforms. The government says the opposition is boycotting the election because it knows it cannot win.

The demonstrators, who call themselves the "People's Democratic Reform Committee" and are closely allied with the Democrats, have vowed to shut down Bangkok after the New Year if Shinawatra does not step down as caretaker.