Thai protesters spar with police in march on PM’s residence

Protesters are calling for the resignation of Prayuth Chan-ocha over mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic as infections surge across Thailand

Celine Wadhera
Friday 13 August 2021 14:47
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<p>A pro-democracy protester uses a tennis racket to return a tear gas canister to the police during a protest calling for the resignation of prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha over the governments handling of the pandemic, in Bangkok on August 13, 2021</p>

A pro-democracy protester uses a tennis racket to return a tear gas canister to the police during a protest calling for the resignation of prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha over the governments handling of the pandemic, in Bangkok on August 13, 2021

Thai protesters clashed with police in on Friday as they marched to the prime minister’s residence to demand his resignation over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the third day this week, hundreds of demonstrators defied the government’s ban on public gatherings – implemented during the pandemic as a means of curbing infection rates – and marched through central Bangkok.

In response, riot police fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at protesters from an elevated highway.

All week, activists have been calling for prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to resign, as they hold him responsible for mismanagement of the pandemic which is now witnessing record cases across the country. On Friday, 23,418 cases were reported, but the Thailand’s Covid task force has said that cases could double by early September.

Activists from the youth-led group Thalufah vowed to protest peacefully on Friday, after demonstrations earlier this week were cleared as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

During the protest, they were heard chanting “Prayuth get out!” and demonstrators were seen using tennis rackets to redirect tear gas canisters fired into the crowd.

Songpon “Yajai” Sonthirak told Reuters at the start of the rally: “The failed management of Covid-19 by the government has caused people to die. Today we are out here to get rid of Prayuth”.

Thai authorities have said they will be pressing charges in 300 cases against people involved in this week’s protests.

Pakapong Pongpetra, Bangkok’s police chief said: “The police’s aim is to maintain peace”.

“Those joining protests are at risk of infection and also breaching other laws as well,” he said.

The youth-led protest movement drew broad support last year in holding rallies, calling for the prime minister to resign and accusing him of rigging Thailand’s political system to stay in power.

Although a number of the movement’s leaders are detained and awaiting trial on charges of sedition and causing unrest, it has seen a resurgence in recent weeks, as Covid cases have surged throughout the country.

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