Bangkok [Thailand] August 8 (ANI/Sputnik): Thai police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds on Saturday during protests against the military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, The Reporters news portal said.
People took to the streets in Bangkok to protest the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government. The demonstrators demand the resignation of the government, as well as the adoption of a new constitution and the holding of elections.
In addition to the usual demands, the protesters were also clamouring for the redirection of budget funds from purchasing army weapons to purchasing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, as new COVID-19 cases in Thailand hit a new height of 21,838 per day. The only vaccines currently in use are AstraZeneca, which is produced internally but in insufficient quantities, and Sinovac, which is not as effective against the new Delta variant.
The broadcaster set up a live feed at one of the three main protest sites in the northern part of the city, Din Daeng crossing, where protesters gathered to attempt a march toward the prime minister's residence.
The police first deployed water cannons and tear gas grenades at around 16:00 local time (09:00 GMT), when a vanguard of protesters clashed with a police special forces unit armed with crowd control equipment and plastic shields. At about 16:15, the police announced that they were opening fire on the protesters with rubber bullets. After that, the law enforcement fired rubber bullets and tear gas grenades at both the vanguard and the main column of the protesters.
Out of over 1,000 people in the march, more than 100 were hit with tear gas in the first 15 minutes. Those at the back of the column passed forward water bottles to help with the injuries, The Reporters said. However, the rubber bullets upset the ranks and forced many of the protesters to flee the scene. The police did not follow in pursuit and maintained their formation, but continued to fire tear gas grenades at the persisting crowds.
By 16:45, the protesters who had previously dispersed into the neighbouring streets began to gather in the square again.
The anti-government protests have been simultaneously staged by various opposition organizations at three sites, including two in the historic centre of Bangkok, and one at the Din Daeng crossing.
The protests were announced three days prior. The Bangkok police did not authorize the action due to the state of emergency in the city over the COVID-19 pandemic and a lockdown banning gatherings of more than five people. Over 5,700 police officers were deployed and 14 checkpoints were set up on the streets adjacent to the protest sites.
The country has been gripped by anti-government protests since December 2019. Pro-democracy protesters demand the cabinet's resignation as well as a constitution and monarchy reform. (ANI/Sputnik)