Thai protesters and police clash as parliament considers charter changes | Thailand


At least 55 people were injured, some by gunshot, when protesters marching on the Thai parliament clashed with police and royalist counter-protesters, in the worst violence since a new youth-led protest movement took hold. emerged in July.Police fired water cannons and tear gas at protesters who on Tuesday broke through razor wire barricades and removed concrete barriers outside parliament.

Police have denied opening fire with live ammunition or rubber bullets and said they were investigating people who may have used guns.

The protest movement, which called for deep constitutional reform of a system, according to protesters, has entrenched the power of the military, has become the biggest challenge for the Thai establishment in years.

Thousands of protesters converged on parliament to pressure lawmakers discussing changes to the constitution. The protesters also want the impeachment of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army leader, and to limit the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Bangkok’s Erawan Medical Center said at least 55 people were injured. He said at least 32 suffered from tear gas and six people were shot and wounded. He did not say who could have used guns.

“We tried to avoid clashes,” Bangkok Deputy Police Chief Piya Tavichai said at a press conference. He said the police tried to push the protesters back from Parliament and separate them from the Royalist counter-protesters in yellow shirts.

‘There will be no compromise’

During the street confrontation, protesters advanced on police with makeshift shields, including inflatable ducks. After about six hours, police withdrew and abandoned their tanker trucks, which protesters mounted and sprayed with graffiti.

“I hereby announce the escalation of the protests. We will not give in. There will be no compromise, ”Parit“ Penguin ”Chiwarak told the crowd at the gates of parliament before the demonstrators dispersed.

Another demonstration was scheduled for Wednesday in central Bangkok.

Government spokeswoman Anucha Burapachaisri said police were forced to use tear gas and water cannons to keep parliamentarians safe.

As police and protesters clashed outside, lawmakers were considering debating seven possible constitutional amendments. They include a proposal to replace current military appointments to the Senate with directly elected representatives.

Parliament is expected to vote Wednesday on the constitutional amendment bills to be debated.

The protests that resumed in July were initially aimed at Prayuth and a constitutional change, but have since called for making the role of the monarch more clearly accountable and reversing the changes that gave the king personal control over the royal fortune and several army units.

Prayuth led the 2014 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government.

Before anti-government protesters reached parliament on Tuesday, several hundred royalists dressed in yellow, the color representing the monarchy, gathered there to urge lawmakers not to change the constitution.

Some of the injuries occurred during a scuffle between pro-democracy protesters and stone-throwing royalists.

Scott Heidler of Al Jazeera, who reports from Bangkok, said there were concerns that “these two groups of protesters are eye to eye.”

“There was a clash… a sustained clash for about 10, maybe 15 minutes,” he said. “Nothing major but it’s the first time we’ve seen this.”

Constitutional changes require a joint vote of the elected House and the appointed Senate. Any motion adopted will have to go through the second and third votes at least one month after this week’s poll.

Parliament is not expected to agree on specific constitutional changes at this stage. Instead, he’s likely to create a drafting committee to draft a new charter.

This would allow the government to say it is ready to respond to protesters’ demands at least halfway while saving time with a process that could stretch over several months.


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