FREE YOUTH and other groups of protesters clashed twice with police units near the Government House this afternoon (July 18) with water cannons fired at them periodically and sounds like the firing of rubber bullets heard, Thai Rath newspaper said.
The first clash took place at Phan Fa Lilat Intersection on Ratchadamnoen Nok Road as protesters tried to dismantle metal barricades and barbed wire erected there leading to police unleashing volleys of water cannons at them.
Police warned the protesters that if they move up again they would fire jets of dyed water at them.
Upon being urged to cooperate and remain calm, the demonstrators did quieten down but the atmosphere remained tense.
The protesters then went near Chamai Maruchet Bridge, also close to the Government House, where they again tried to break through another police barricade leading to more water cannons being fired with those there also hearing sounds of rubber bullets being fired.
Meanwhile six six-wheel trucks drove up and parked 50 metres away from the police line on Ratchadamnoen Nok road to protect the protesters.
The demonstrators from the Free Youth, the “car mob” led political activist Sombat Boonngam-anong and We Volunteer (WeVo) groups had gathered at the Democracy Monument at 2 p.m. to march to the Government House via Khok Wua Intersection.
They had three demands with these being Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha resign unconditionally; reduce institutional budget and that for the army to help fight Covid-19; and change Sinovac to mRNA vaccine.
In speeches to the protesters their leaders continuously emphasised that their demonstration “is not an option but a way of survival” while urging for health measures to prevent coronavirus.
WeVo group leader Mr. Piyarat Chongthep, or Toto, said today’s demonstrators would not rely on leaders with everyone having a role to play.
He added that they expect to reach the Government House at 5 p.m. after which they would carry out their activities for an hour before dispersing.
At 2.55 p.m. it started raining and the protesters were told to put on their raincoats. At 3.10 p.m., slightly later than the schedule, the WeVo guards tied on pieces of green cloth and started marching from the Democracy Monument.
They took several items along with them including placards, pictures, effigies of dead bodies to symbolise the large number of Covid deaths now taking place.
The “car mob” rode along on their motorcycles and cars, blaring their horns loudly as they did so.
There was heavy presence of police units that had set up barriers at various points including placing containers and rolling out concertina wires.
Protesters drenched after police fired water cannons at them as they marched close to the Government House from Democracy Monument today. All photos: Thai Rath