Thailand protests: Fresh clashes in Bangkok as lawmakers debate reforms

Renewed clashes have broken out near Thailand’s parliament in the capital, Bangkok, as lawmakers debate possible changes to the constitution.

Police used water cannon and a tear-gas solution against protesters calling for reforms to the monarchy and the military-backed government.

Fighting also broke out between pro-reformists and supporters of the Thai royal family.

The proposed constitutional amendments come after months of protests.

They could make Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn more accountable and also reform the senate, where the members are unelected.

Protesters are also demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha – a former general who seized power in a 2014 coup.

Protesters near razor wire in Bangkok on 17 November 2020

Tuesday’s violence started when a group of demonstrators tried to cut through razor-wire barricades near parliament. They hurled smoke bombs and bags of paint at lines of riot police.

In response, police used a water cannon to try to force them back and when that failed, they used the cannon to fire a liquid laced with a tear-gas solution.

Police use a water cannon with chemical-laced water to disperse pro-democracy protesters during an anti-government rally in Bangkok on November 17, 2020
Water cannon is fired towards pro-democracy protesters near the Thai parliament in Bangkok on 17 November 2020

Demonstrators could be seen trying to wash the irritant from their eyes.

Health officials said five people had been treated in hospital for the effects of tear gas, while others had been treated at the scene.

A protester who was exposed to tear gas washes his face outside parliament on 17 November 2020 in Bangkok

Some protesters tried to shelter behind giant inflatable rubber ducks, which they had intended to float down the river behind parliament as lawmakers debated inside.

Demonstrators use inflatable rubber ducks as shields to protect themselves from water cannons during an anti-government protest in Bangkok, Thailand, 17 November 2020
Demonstrators use inflatable rubber ducks as shields to protect themselves from water cannons during an anti-government protest in Bangkok, Thailand, November 17, 2020

Amid the chaos, anti-government protesters then clashed with pro-monarchy supporters, with the rival groups hurling objects at each other

Police intervened to keep the two groups apart.

Royalist supporters come up against the police during a pro-democracy rally near the Thai parliament. 17 Nov 2020

Thailand has suffered political turmoil for years but tensions have escalated since protesters began questioning the powers of the monarchy. Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, which forbids any insult to the monarchy, is among the strictest in the world.

“Amending the constitution is going to lead to the abolition of the monarchy,” pro-royalist leader Warong Dechgitvigrom told reporters on Tuesday.

However, protesters deny wanting the abolition of the monarchy.

By BBC

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