On Sunday Jul 18th, Thai demonstrators protesting in Bangkok against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, came up against the police force. The police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, demonstrators came out in force to call for Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha’s resignation. Also, the protest move marks the one-year anniversary of a pro-democracy movement.
Protesters demand for PM’s resignation
Near the intersection of the capital’s Democracy Monument, protesters piled mock body bags sprinkled with red paint. They did this while defying rules that prohibit gatherings of more than five people.
A protest organiser shouted “We will die from COVID-19 if we stay home, that is why we have to come out.”
The protester organisers list three demands: “Prayut Chan-o-cha must resign without any condition; the second is a budget cut to the monarchy and army to be used against COVID-19, and the third is to bring in mRNA vaccine.”
A picture of Prayut, the mastermind of a 2014 coup, was seen on a giant banner. Protesters unfurled the picture on the road and then stomped on his face.
The protesters march
A frontline group wearing hard hats and gas masks, led protesters as they marched on to the Government House. Motorbike drivers hoisting up the mock body bags joined in.
However, police authorities blocked the main road early. The authorities deployed water cannon, forcing the protesters to retreat.
According to AFP news reporters at the scene, authorities fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd as well. Coughing protesters scattered, while trying to rinse their eyes out with saline solution.
While protesters tried to rinse their eyes with saline solution, it sent them scattering while coughing non-stop.
Police and protesters stand off
As clouds of gas rose in the air in the late afternoon, the two sides were standing off.
The number of those injured in the protest remains unclear.
Protesters upset with slow vaccination procurement
The Thai kingdom registers record daily case records, as it is currently facing its worst COVID-19 wave. The country’s hospitals are struggling to cope with the overwhelming pressure of the pandemic.
The government’s slow procurement of vaccines is one major reason for the wave of infections. As such, Thai citizens are unhappy with the government. The Thai economy is severely hampered due to severe restrictions disallowing many businesses to operate.
After the 2019 elections, Prime Minister Prayut managed to retain power. The elections were held under an army-scripted constitution. During the election period, legal troubles repeatedly hit popular opposition figures, placing them out of the race.
Thousands of protesters amassed at the Democracy Monument exactly one year ago. The protesters called for reforms to the kingdom’s long-unassailable monarchy, Prayut’s resignation, and the rewriting of the constitution.
The protest marked the beginning of a movement that has widened the discourse on taboo topics. One of the topics revolves around the role of the Thai royal family. The royal family is protected under a strict defamation law called lese majeste.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected Thailand’s economy. Another one of the movement’s main grievances is the government’s mishandling of the pandemic.
Mix of vaccines
Earlier this week, Thai health authorities announced it would pair a dose of the Sinovac vaccine from China with the AstraZeneca vaccine from the UK. This is after hundreds of medical staff vaccinated with Sinovac jabs contracted the virus, as found by authorities.
On Sunday, a young protester was demanding “You do not need to do any mix-and-match vaccines – just give us good vaccines.”
Thai film Director mentions situation at Cannes Film Festival
On Saturday, acclaimed Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul highlighted the country’s situation. He did this during his acceptance speech for the jury prize at Cannes for his film, “Memoriam”.
“I’m really lucky to be standing here and while many of my countrymen cannot travel. Many of them suffer greatly from the pandemic with the mismanagement of resources, of health care and vaccine accessibility,” Weerasethakul said.
“I want to call out for the Thai and Colombian government (where ‘Memoriam’ was filmed) … to please wake up and work for your people now.”
19th July 2021 23:00
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