Riot police scuffled with pro-democracy activists as they protested Thursday against the Thai prime minister on the eve of the APEC leaders’ summit being staged in Bangkok amid high security.
More than 100 people protested at a traffic intersection in the Thai capital near the summit venue. They were demonstrating over prosecutions of anti-government activists and student leaders since former army chief, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, overthrew a civilian-led government in 2014 and became prime minister.
Chanting “Prayuth get out!” the protesters, mostly young, marched to Bangkok’s Asoke intersection, a few hundred yards away from the meeting venue. They were demanding access to deliver an open letter condemning Prayuth, the summit host.
Wielding riot shields, scores of police were arrayed to contain the protesters, and stood their ground as some protesters stomped on their shields and hurled bottles of water at them. Police warned them by loudspeaker to get back. No one appeared to be hurt in the encounter.
“Had [the police] let us hand over the letter, there would not have been any tussles,” protester Tantawan Tuatulanon, who is on bail and facing lese-majeste charges, told reporters at the protest scene, condemning the police action against them. She was wearing an electronic monitoring device on her ankle.
Leaders or senior representatives of 21 economies are set to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit that will start on Friday. Thailand has deployed tens of thousands of security personnel to secure the venue and delegates’ accommodation. On Thursday, there was a gathering of APEC foreign ministers.
The open letter that the protesters’ wanted to deliver contends that “Thailand is merely a resemblance of a democracy” which is actually still ruled by an authoritarian system. It also criticizes the Thai monarchy.
Since young activists began protests against Prayuth in July 2020, as many as 1,864 people have been charged with royal defamation or sedition. They have demanded that Prayuth steps down, the monarchy be reformed and the constitution be amended.
BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.