Rubber bullets, tear gas fired as rally turns violent

Rubber bullets, tear gas fired as rally turns violent

Protesters clash with police as they try to move containers placed outside the 1st Infantry Regiment on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Protesters clash with police as they try to move containers placed outside the 1st Infantry Regiment on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A rally by pro-democracy protesters outside the 1st Infantry Regiment in Bangkok turned violent on Sunday as police fired rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas at demonstrators trying to approach the barracks.

Demonstrators held up shell casings to show that rubber bullets had been fired at them. 

There were no initial reports of injuries, but an ambulance was seen driving towards Veterans General Hospital.

Riot police decided to use water cannon to break up the rally after some demonstrators removed shipping containers laid out to keep them away from the barracks on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

They also fired tear gas at the protesters, who hurled bottles and other objects back at them. Objects could be seen flying from both sides.

After a brief but violent clash, the demonstrators moved back to the area outside Veterans General Hospital near the barracks.

The standoff between police and the protesters continued outside the hospital but tensions eased when security guards formed a human chain to keep protesters and police at a safe distance from one another.

Some demonstrators vowed to advance towards the residence of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha inside the barracks, but were dissuaded by others. "Do not throw anything at police," protest leaders said repeatedly through megaphones, before both sides said they would "move one step backward".

Earlier on Sunday, protesters gathered at Victory Monument before marching to the barracks.

A sizeable contingent of Myanmar nationals also joined the rally, voicing support for democracy on a day that saw six protesters killed after opposing the Feb 1 coup in the neighbouring country.  Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) deputy chief Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai warned Myanmar protesters that they could face deportation.

The rally forced the temporary closure of the tollway exit in Din Daeng and traffic police advised motorists avoid driving to the area.

MPB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong Pongpetra tried to negotiate with protest leaders to ease tension. 

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