BANGKOK: Thai police yesterday fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters mounting a “final fight” to topple the embattled government, two days after the prime minister was stripped of office.
Thousands of protesters left their main encampment in a park in the city’s commercial district as their firebrand leader Suthep Thaugsuban issued a rallying cry for them to establish a parallel government.
Fanning out into several groups they also surrounded a number of free-to-air television stations, saying they had interrupted broadcasts by authorities, as fears simmered of street clashes between rival political groups.
Police briefly used water cannon to hold off a hard-core group of anti-government protesters led by a Buddhist monk, who were attempting to enter a fortified police club. “At first police fired water cannon, but protesters tried to get into the police club so they fired one can of tear gas,” Paradorn Pattanatabut, a security adviser to the government said.
The city’s Erawan Emergency Centre said five people were injured at the police club, without giving details.
The protesters’ action adds risk to a highly combustible situation with rival pro-government “Red Shirts” due to mass in the city suburbs today, as Thailand’s political crisis lurches into a dangerous new phase.
At least 25 people have been killed and hundreds more left wounded in gun and grenade attacks linked to six months of anti-government protests.
Both sides have hardcore armed supporters and Thailand’s recent history has been scarred by bouts of political violence.
Although buffeted by the Constitutional Court’s removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on abuse of power charges on Wednesday, the current Puea Thai administration has staggered on and appointed a new premier.
But the Red Shirts are outraged at Yingluck’s being deposed, accusing the court of acting in cahoots with the street mob to boot out a third premier linked to their hero -- Yingluck’s billionaire brother Thaksin.
Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, who was swiftly appointed to replace Yingluck, is a Thaksin-loyalist.
“We are angry... we are ready to fight, we will not use violence but the power of the people to fight for democracy,” Kwanchai Pripana, a Red Shirt leader, said, adding he would lead tens of thousands to today’s rally from the Shinawatra-loyalist Udon Thani province. AFP