Thai police defended using water cannons and tear gas on protesters armed only with inflatable ducks on Wednesday, as dozens were injured in the latest clashes on the streets of Bangkok.
After bringing the ducks to shield themselves in bizarre scenes on Tuesday, pro-democracy protesters again turned out in large numbers today in defiance of a police warning against gathering, and with additional protective gear including goggles, gas masks, shields and wet wipes.
More than 50 people were injured in the clashes on Tuesday, with police defending their tactics as in line with international practices. A statement said there was no intention to harm demonstrators, who they alleged were trying to break down barriers near parliament. Police said they did not fire rubber bullets or live rounds during the clashes.
The police have deployed water cannon against protesters on a number of occasions as the situation in the capital has worsened. Police have previously claimed they were only aiming into the air above the protesters to get them to disperse, even as news images showed sprays of water hitting crowds.
For the past several months, Thailand’s student-led protests have demanded reforms that include the ouster of the military-backed prime minister and former general Prayut Chan-o-cha. They also want a new constitution and a reduction in the powers of a monarchy which it is still much-revered by older generations.
Many gathered again on Wednesday in central Bangkok, reiterating their demands while police beefed up security at several buildings in the city including the police headquarters.
The protests continue while Thailand’s parliament debates and votes on seven constitutional bills which, among other things, aim to curb the powers of senators.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand drew attention towards the injuries that protesters suffered during clashes on Tuesday. They urged their journalist members to wear protective gear for the head, face and body and asked the Thai authorities to legalise the use of body armour for journalists and paramedics – which according to current law is illegal.
They also asked government to exercise restraint in dealing with unarmed protesters.