Tens of thousands of people have once again taken to the streets of Thailand’s Bangkok and other cities in the country, a day after police used brutal tactics to crack down on protesters in the capital.
Demonstrations were held in Bangkok and six other cities on Saturday, the latest in three months of protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who came to power in a coup six years ago.
Many of the protesters said they had been stirred into action by the police’s use of force on Friday. Police used water cannon against a crowd of protesters — who included many children — for the first time during the Friday protests.
“It was way over the line,” said one protester. “We want to show them our power and that we can’t accept this.”
In an attempt to thwart the new protests on Saturday, police had shut down Bangkok’s public transport network, but the move led to localized protests across the city involving three main centers and several other smaller demonstrations.
“We will primarily negotiate,” police spokesman Yingyos Thepjamnong told a news conference. “Enforcing the law will be step by step, using methods that follow international standards.”
Protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree condemned the crackdown on the protesters after he was freed on bail following an arrest on Friday.
“I condemn those who cracked down on the protesters and those who ordered it. You all have blood on your hands,” he said.
Human rights groups have also denounced the dozens of arrests and the use of force against peaceful protesters.
Police have arrested more than 50 people, including several protest leaders, over the past week.
The Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Brad Adams, called on “concerned governments and the United Nations [to] speak out publicly to demand an immediate end to political repression by the Prayuth administration.”
Prayuth previously said that his government would allow protests but would not accept demands for reform of the monarchical system in the country.
His government ordered a ban on all political gatherings of five or more people on Thursday.
In reaction to the protests, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said, “There is no win or lose for any side. It’s all damage to the country.”
At the biggest demonstration in years, tens of thousands of people gathered in Bangkok on September 19, calling on the prime minster to step own.
The gathering, which was held on the anniversary of the 2006 military coup that overthrew the then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, gained momentum in demonstrations for greater democracy and reform of the country’s powerful monarchy.
The royal palace has made no comment on the protests, but King Maha Vajiralongkorn has said that Thailand needs people who love the country and the monarchy.
In a rare, direct challenge to the king, protesters chanted slogans and held up a disparaging three-finger salute at his passing convoy on Tuesday.