Cops come under fire for 'attack' on volunteer

Cops come under fire for 'attack' on volunteer

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration officials examine trees used to decorate the Democracy Monument which were removed by protesters on Saturday. Varuth Hirunyatheb
Bangkok Metropolitan Administration officials examine trees used to decorate the Democracy Monument which were removed by protesters on Saturday. Varuth Hirunyatheb

Police are under fire after being accused of attacking a volunteer medic during a pro-democracy protest on Saturday night that ended with eight demonstrators detained and 20 wounded.

Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) chief Phukphong Phongpetra, however, said the person was not a professional medical staff member but a volunteer for a group that provided first aid -- and was allegedly among the people who instigated the incident.

A group representing doctors who work in provincial hospitals on Sunday denounced police for the incident outside the Supreme Court compound near Sanam Luang. The group, the Rural Doctor Society, demanded an explanation and legal action against the officers involved, saying it was a violation of human rights.

The group added that it opposed violence by all parties during rallies.

A video clip widely circulated online showed officers in full riot gear chasing a man with at least one beating him with a truncheon as he fell to the ground.

More clips showed another man wearing what appeared to be a green volunteer medic's vest surrounded by police leading to the hashtag #policebeatingmedic trending on Thai language Twitter.

Pol Lt Gen Phukphong defended officers, saying the man had a truncheon in his vest. He was also near the scene of the clash between police and the demonstrators as authorities warned them to end the rally.

After the protest, leaders called off the rally, but some protesters still caused chaos for over 30 minutes, he said.

Police had to fire gunshots into the sky to keep order as protesters "did not cooperate". However, he insisted there was no order for police to use tear gas or rubber bullets.

He said two companies of crowd control police were deployed on Saturday. They had tear gas cartridges with them but none used them. They had returned all the supplies.

The protest calling for the release of the four leaders of the People's Movement started at the Democracy Monument before activists marched to the City Pillar Shrine near Sanam Luang.

Riot police formed a barrier outside the premises of the Supreme Court.

As four protest leaders were allowed by police to enter the shrine to pay homage and seek blessings for the demonstration, some protesters waiting outside clashed with police.

Bottles were thrown and smoke filled the air.

The city police chief denied that tear gas was fired by police during the scuffle, although tear gas cans were found at the scene.

The People's Movement on Sunday reiterated its peaceful stance but said protesters had a right to retaliate against violence by authorities.

The Erawan Emergency Medical Centre on Sunday morning reported 25 people were injured during the rally with 20 being sent to the Police General Hospital, two to Klang Hospital and one each to Vajira, Mission and Dr Panya hospitals. Meanwhile, the MPB chief said 23 police officers were injured, mostly from ping-pong bombs, stones, bottles and other objects allegedly thrown by the protesters.

On Sunday afternoon, a 23-year-old People's Movement's guard identified as Ball filed a complaint with Nang Loeng police saying he was beaten by a person in a police uniform. Police said they would investigate the case.

Police said eight demonstrators were arrested on multiple charges, including defiance of the emergency decree. Another protest has been called for next Saturday. The political situation was intense after Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk were detained last Tuesday after the Criminal Court denied them bail.

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