Thousands of democracy advocates yesterday gathered in downtown Bangkok after six people were shot the previous day in violent clashes, as lawmakers voted on possible constitutional reforms.
Thailand has been rocked by months of protests demanding changes to the constitution, the removal of Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and even changes to the monarchy.
Tuesday saw the most violent confrontations since the movement began in July, as police used tear gas and water cannons on protesters trying to reach the National Assembly, and democracy advocates clashed with royalists.
More than 50 people were injured, six of them with gunshot wounds, medical officials said, although it is not clear who was responsible for the shootings.
Protesters yesterday gathered at the Ratchaprasong junction in Bangkok’s shopping and commercial heart, after their leaders vowed to step up the movement.
Police used dumper trucks, concrete blocks and razor wire to barricade their headquarters, while many protesters came with helmets, goggles and gas masks.
“We will protect our people,” protester Jay, 26, said. “We don’t want any violence, but there will be no compromise.”
Royal Thai Police spokesman Major-General Yingyos Thepjamnong warned protesters not to encroach on the police headquarters, saying that more than 2,000 officers had been deployed.
Thai National Assembly members yesterday voted on options for changing the constitution, with most of them opposed to a demand from protesters for a proposal that could mean changes to the role of the monarchy.
Prayuth’s supporters have a majority in the National Assembly, where the entire Senate was appointed by the junta that he led after a 2014 coup.
Only one of seven proposals for constitutional reform would potentially allow amending the role of the monarchy, which protesters have said has enabled decades of military domination.
“The government coalition will vote to accept two drafts, which do not change articles related to the monarchy, but refrain from voting on the iLaw draft,” Thai Shadow Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Chinnaworn Boonyakiat said, referring to a proposal from the iLaw human rights group that would allow for the monarchy’s place to be discussed.
Individual voting on each proposal by the 487 elected members of the Thai House of Representatives and 245 senators was expected to take several hours.
“If we want solutions for our country, we need to adopt the iLaw draft,” Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat said. “While we were sitting in an air-conditioned room, officers used violence on many people.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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