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Thai police clash with anti-government protesters in Bangkok

Police clash with protesters during an anti-government protest in Bangkok, Thailand February 28, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Thai police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters marching on a military base in Bangkok to call for King Maha Vajiralongkorn to give up direct command of the army unit housed there.

Protesters threw bottles at police and marched right up to a barricade of shipping containers and barbed wire at the entrance to the base of the 1st Infantry Regiment in Bangkok, one of several army units that government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha transferred to the king's control in 2019.

The Thai youth-led political movement rose up last year to demand Prayuth's resignation and broke taboos by calling for reforms of the monarchy.

Public criticism of the king is illegal in Thailand, with insults to the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison under the country's strict lese majeste law. The Royal Palace has made no comment since protests began.

The new wave of protests came after recent detention of four prominent protest leaders on royal defamation charges. The four are among 58 protesters facing lese majeste charges and the prospect of up to 15 years in jail per charge if convicted of insulting the monarchy.

An estimated 2,000 demonstrators marched from the major Bangkok intersection Victory Monument on Sunday to a nearby military barracks where Prayut lives.

Some Thai protesters marched wearing hard hats and carried red flags. 

Hundreds later pushed through shipping containers and barbed-wire barricades, leading to a confrontation with riot police guarding the entrance of the barracks.

Scuffles broke out between riot squad officers and protesters, while some demonstrators were seen pushing a police truck.

Some protesters threw glass bottles, rocks and bricks at officers while others took refuge inside a nearby Shell petrol station, which later closed early.

Despite protest organisers sending a social media message at around 8:30 pm local time (1:30 pm GMT) urging demonstrators to go home, scores stuck around, many on motorbikes playing a cat and mouse game with advancing police.

A doctor from the Erawan Emergency Medical Centre said 16 protesters were injured.

At least two protesters were arrested, according to a live Facebook feed, however police have not confirmed the total number. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said 19 were arrested including a 16-year-old.

(Source: Reuters, AFP) 

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