Dozens hurt at weekend rally as police fire rubber bullets

Dozens of protesters and police were injured in violent clashes at an anti-government rally, an emergency medical centre said, as police acknowledged firing rubber bullets for the first time since protests started last year.

Police also used tear gas and water cannon against protesters who marched on a military base in Bangkok calling for King Maha Vajiralongkorn to give up direct command of the army unit housed there.

“It was the first time rubber bullets were used, ” Bangkok police chief Pakapong Pongpetra told reporters yesterday, claiming their use had been necessary to prevent the violence from escalating.

The youth-led political movement is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former junta leader, and has broken taboos by calling for reform of the powerful monarchy.

Police said 22 protesters were arrested on Sunday and charged with violating an emergency decree, enforced since last year to curb the spread of Covid-19, and for obstructing the authorities.

Ten protesters and 26 police officers were injured in the clash, Bangkok’s Erawan Emergency Medical Centre said.

A Thai government spokesman said a police officer had also died due to a heart attack.

Prayut said tougher measures had been employed because protesters initiated violence.

“Police had to use measures according to international standards, ” he told reporters at the Government House yesterday.

Meanwhile, the video clip of a pro-democracy protester from the REDEM (Restore Democracy) group urinating on a riot police officer’s head has created quite a furore on social media.

The clip shows a protester climbing up on a shipping container used as a barrier outside the 1st Infantry Regiment compound on Sunday night before spraying the officer below.

The protesters were trying to make their way to Prayut’s house in the compound to demand his resignation.

The clip recording the “pee protest” won different reactions on social media, with some saying it was “just desserts” for the police crackdown on protesters, while others said it was unacceptable. — Agencies

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