Thai police fire tear gas, water cannon at parliament protest

BANGKOK: Thai police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters on Tuesday (Nov 17), hurting several people in a bid to push back a demonstration at parliament demanding constitutional changes that would touch on the powerful monarchy.

Protesters are demanding changes to the constitution drawn up by Thailand’s former military government. They also want the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army ruler, and reforms to curb the powers of the monarchy.

A man runs away from tear gas fired by police to disperse protesters outside parliament house in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Police sprayed water cannon at protesters who tried to cut their way through razor-wire barricades. Then they fired tear gas at the hundreds of demonstrators.

Ambulances ferried the injured to hospital. Bangkok’s Erawan Medical Center said five people were hospitalised due to teargas and others were treated at the scene.

CNA correspondents saw protest frontliners screaming and running as police fired several shots of tear gas and water to disperse the crowd.

Some protesters shouted in pain after being hit by the blasts of water, which stung their skin on impact, with some observed to have thrown up after.

Live television images showed water cannon being fired against an advance guard of anti-government protesters who arrived with helmets and masks and tried to remove the coils of wire.

Protesters threw back coloured smoke bombs at police.

A policeman reacts after tear gas is thrown during an anti-government rally in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Jack Taylor)

A man uses a face mask to wipe his face after police used water cannon with chemical-laced water during a rally near the Thai parliament in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)

“Dictator’s lackeys!” the Free Youth protest group posted on Twitter with pictures of the helmeted riot police using the water cannon.

Police declared that protests were banned within 50m of the area. Hundreds of protesters assembled nearby.

“Protesters tried to break through the barricades to enter the restricted area,” police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told reporters.

Police spray a water cannon towards protesters during a rally near the Thai parliament in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)
A riot policeman covers his face as tear gas is fired during a rally near the Thai parliament in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)
Police use water cannon with chemical-laced water to disperse protesters in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)
A protester wearing googles and a gas mask stands behind barricades and barbed wire during a rally near the Thai parliament in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Jack Taylor)

Hundreds of royalists had earlier demonstrated to call on lawmakers not to change the constitution.

Lawmakers were discussing several proposals for the way in which the constitution can be amended – some of which would exclude the possibility of changes to the way King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy is treated under the constitution.

There is also discussion of the role of the Senate, which was entirely selected by Prayut’s former military government and helped ensure that he kept power with a parliamentary majority after a disputed election last year. Prayut says the vote was fair.

Opposition parliamentarians have also called for changes to the constitution.

Protests since July initially targeted Prayut and constitutional change, but have since called for the monarch’s role to be more clearly accountable under the constitution and for the reversal of changes that gave the current king personal control of the royal fortune and some army units.

A protester is seen at Samsen Road near the parliament building in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
Protesters are seen at Samsen Road near the parliament building in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
A man rinses his face after tear gas is fired in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
Protesters are seen at Samsen Road in Bangkok near the parliament building in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
Tear gas was fired at Samsen Road in Bangkok near the parliament building in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
A protester wears a gas mask during an anti-government rally in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Jack Taylor)
“I command that you stay under the Constitution”, reads a message on a balloon outside parliament house where protesters are gathered in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
Protesters at an anti-government rally in Bangkok on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)

“Amending the constitution is going to lead to the abolition of the monarchy,” royalist leader Warong Dechgitvigrom told reporters at the demonstration.

Protesters have said they do not intend to abolish the monarchy.

Source: Reuters/ic/zl/CNA

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