Riot police march on protesters in Bangkok, clashes erupt


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Hundreds of police in riot gear marched on protesters in downtown Bangkok, using water cannons and forcibly dispersing the crowd just before 7pm on Friday night.
Police were advancing on remaining protesters for a second time at 8pm, firing water cannons to clear the streets. There are reports the police are preparing to fire rubber bullets at remaining protesters.
“Please don’t use your batons, even if your boss ordered you,” a man was heard exhorting the police at 8:14pm.
An organizer with People’s Party, the umbrella protest group, called off the rally. The government has announced that it is dispersing the protests in a legal manner consistent with international practices. There have been no reports of serious injury.
Skirmishes first broke out between police and members of the public who’d gathered for a third day of protests. Marching in ranks, the officers approached the group gathered at Pathum Wan Intersection by the MBK Center shopping mall, threatening to arrest those present.
None of the protesters appeared to be armed and no weapons could be seen used apart from thrown water bottles.
“Get out!” the crowd, which includes many students, yelled at the police, and “F**k Prayuth!” in reference to the coup leader-turned-prime minister they have been calling on to step down.
Just before they charged the demonstrators, they fired water cannons that knocked people, many young demonstrators, to the ground. Those present said there was blue-colored stain and possibly an irritant in the water.
Social media users were sharing tactics on how to handle water cannons learned in Hong Kong using the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance.
After protesters regrouped nearby by Siam Square, police advanced again at 7:15pm. There were conflicting accounts of tear gas being used.
Many protesters retreated to the campus of nearby Chulalongkorn University for safety.
At 7:30pm, police issued another order to disperse before advancing again on those still there, firing water cannons.
In response, people are gathering to stage a protest in the northern city of Chiang Mai.
This is a developing story and may be updated without notice.
Plans for another rally today at Ratchaprasong Intersection were changed at the last minute after the intersection was shut down and surrounded with barbed wire.
The protest umbrella group announced just before 5pm that people would gather just down the road at Pathum Wan Intersection in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, a site of frequent protests. The BTS Skytrain has announced that trains will not stop at BTS Chit Lom and Ratchadamri, citing the state of extreme emergency.
The government closed BTS Siam, Chit Lom, Ratchadamri, National Stadium and Ratchathewi stations as well as MRT Sam Yan, hamstringing essential transportation just as people are likely to be heading home on Friday evening.
Police estimated that 13,000 people converged on Ratchaprasong Intersection yesterday. Officers struggled to keep them away but ended up being pushed out by the sheer number of people who showed up. The rally dispersed peacefully at 10pm.
Things escalated on Wednesday, the 47th anniversary of a 1973 uprising against military dictatorship, when a motorcade carrying the queen left its announced route to pass by protesters who shouted obscenities at the vehicle and displayed defiant salutes. Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who staged a coup in 2014 and now serves as prime minister, cited that for imposing an state of “extreme emergency” over the capital.
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