Police defend protest clash

The national police chief appeared on national TV Saturday night to explain and defend the use of tear gas during a morning clash between riot police and protesters at the Makkhawan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

Photo by Post Today

National police chief Adul Saengsingkaew, director of the hastily assembled Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order authorised by the Internal Security Act (ISA) detailed a rally clash in which at least 17 officers and demonstrators were injured.

Police had earlier announced that rally-goers could enter the rally site via two official routes only, Pol Gen Adul said - one from  Benjamaborpit intersection on Rama V Road and the other from the 1st Division of the King's Guard intersection on Sri Ayutthaya Road.

Protesters were prohibited from reaching the protest venue via Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge because police wanted to prevent vehicles from entering and to screen for possible firearms carried into the Royal Plaza area, where an estimated 5,000 protesters were already gathering at 8am.  

The morning clash occurred after about 500 protesters at the Makkhawan Bridge tried to negotiate with police to open the barricade. Police refused, and insisted the protesters use only the authorised entrances, he said.

The protesters then cut down barbed wire and tried to force their way through the barricades, using a six-wheeled truck. Riot police guarding the area threw tear gas at them. 

Pol Gen Adul said officers had issued a warning to the protesters before they threw the tear gas. Police arrested 132 protesters in the incident. Searches of those arrested turned up 30 rounds of .38-calibre ammunition used by handguns, sharp metal objects and knives. The clash injured six police, he added.

The national police chief thanked Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, Pitak Siam leader, for keeping all of the agreements he had made with authorities prior to the Saturday mass rally.  

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Worapong Chiewpreecha said police had informed the organisers of the rally about the two entry routes to the protest site.

He said the areas from the Royal Plaza to the adjacent Missakawan intersection, halfway between the stage and the Makkhawan Bridge, could support up to 100,000 protesters.  Police denied the protesters’ request to open the barricade because there were only 5,000 rally-goers at the time. Police told the protesters they would open another entry route at the bridge if a large number of protesters turned up and filled the rally space between the Royal Plaza and Missakawan intersection, Pol Gen Worapong explained.

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