Dozens of pro-democracy protesters and police officers were injured Sunday when Thai police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse a crowd gathered near the Grand Palace in the capital Bangkok.
Police arrested at least 20 demonstrators for insulting the monarchy and breaching public gathering laws, saying that their actions were in accordance with international standards.
Speaking to reporters, the deputy head of the Bangkok police, Piya Tavichai said that the “violence originated from the protesters’ side and police have to defend the law and protect national treasures.”
Protesters said, however, that police used excessive force first before the demonstrators did anything.
Videos circulated on social media showed police in riot gear clashing with demonstrators, hitting and stomping on people, some of them running to take refuge in a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.
Thailand’s protest movement started last year and is presenting the biggest challenge for the government of Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-ocha, a retired army general who seized power after the 2014 military coup. The pro-democracy protesters demand that the prime minister and his government relinquish power, demand a constitutional amendment and call on the monarchy to reform.
The military-monarchy establishment drafted the constitution for which the protesters say gives the king too much power and keeps Prayuth as prime minister after a 2019 election.
Prayuth and his supporters reject that claim.