Protesters tell of 'Excessive' force, From gas to beatings and even releasing cobras

Pitak Siam supporters have condemned the "excessive" force used by police as they pushed back protesters seeking to join the anti-government rally yesterday.

The protesters told how tear gas was fired at them, alleged that police officers hit them, and even claimed vicious cobras were released into the crowd.

"It was an excessive use of force against protesters without weapons," said Pornsawat Thamparichat, who joined the rally.

She said she is backing Pitak Siam's attempt to overthrow the government because, while it was true the Yingluck Shinawatra administration was democratically elected, it had failed to administer the country under the principle of law.

The 60-year-old from Nonthaburi said many leaders of the pro-government red-shirt group had been appointed to important positions without being qualified.

Watchalit Sakulthiptae, who was among 137 protesters held following yesterday's skirmish, said no warning was issued before tear gas was fired.

Mr Watchalit alleged some demonstrators were beaten amid the smoke.

"Police simply said we weren't allowed to enter the restricted area and then used the tear gas on us," he said.

"I was hit in the stomach [by a police officer]. I saw an old lady fall to the ground. Some were kicked and dragged into Government House."

Mr Watchalit and more than 100 others were detained and whisked off to a border patrol police school in Pathum Thani's Khlong Luang district.

A 56-year-old from Bangkok who asked not to be named said: "I hesitated to join the rally, but when I saw that police had fired tear gas at protesters this morning, I decided to go out immediately."

He said that the events would not scare off the protesters. On the contrary, it would encourage more of them to join the movement, he said.

"It is our constitutional right to protest peacefully and it is obvious the government is afraid of us," he said.

A woman from Yala who identified herself only Ratjana said insurgents let off explosives in Yala almost every day and the government would be better off mobilising such a large police presence to help quell the far South insurgency.

She also said she had heard a rumour that a batch of king cobras were released around the rally site to scare away the crowds.

A protester from Prachin Buri who asked not to be named said the action taken against the protesters was too harsh.

"My eyes are irritated from the tear gas even though I was not close to the clash," she said.

"But I am not frightened and if the protest continues, so will I.

"I do not want an elected government to be changed, but I do want it to administer the country with fairness."

Santi Tehpia, a photographer, said he was sitting on a six-wheel lorry when the teargas was fired.

A canister landed on the vehicle so he jumped off.

Mr Santi said he fell on some police officers, who arrested him.

"I showed my media crew card but I was told there were no media allowed. An officer kicked me and broke my camera," he said.

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Writer: Lamphai Intathep & King-Oua Laohong