Thai protesters hold new rally after clashes

KERALANEXT.com
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BANGKOK : Thousands of protesters staged a new rally on Monday against Thailand’s military, one day after clashes with police left scores injured in the first violence since last year’s military coup.

“We condemn the actions last night. We will fight back,” protest organiser Jakraphob Penkair told reporters.

Thousands gathered in a muddy plaza in central Bangkok to press their demands for the military to step down, but organisers said they had no plan to stage another march like the one that led to clashes on Sunday.
Police estimated the crowd at 1,500, but organisers put the number at more than 5,000.
Protest leaders used giant screens to show the crowd videos of the violence the night before, when fighting erupted after police tried to stop some 5,000 demonstrators from marching to the home of the king’s top adviser, Prem Tinasulanond.

“I came here today because I’m curious about last night, but I don’t think the problems that happened last night will happen again today,” said one 40-year-old man at the rally.

Violence flared sporadically for about two-and-a-half hours on Sunday as protesters threw rocks, sticks and other objects at riot police, who responded with tear gas, water cannon and batons to break up the rally.

Many of the protesters were supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who accuse Prem of masterminding the coup last September.
Six people were arrested on Sunday and charged with disturbing the peace, damaging government property and injuring police officers, Bangkok police spokesman Supisarn Bhakdinaruenart said.

Bangkok’s Narenthorn emergency centre said 106 people had been treated for mostly minor injuries, including 77 police.

The protesters, who call themselves the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, accused the police of provoking the violence on Prem’s orders.
“The action last night means that our group has hit the right target. It means that General Prem is the mastermind of the September 19 coup,” Weng said.
“That is why the authorities reacted brutally against us. This is a war without bullets.”

Army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said he could not rule out the possibility of more clashes between police and protesters in the run-up to a referendum next month on a new constitution proposed by the military.
“There is a minority of Thais who are opposed to the referendum and the election, but we didn’t expect them to react with violence like what we saw last night,” Surayud told reporters.

Thaksin’s allies have staged the nightly protests since early June to demand that the military step down and that elections be held immediately.
Earlier this month, the military unveiled a new constitution that they say will guide Thailand towards elections before the end of the year.

The charter is set to go to a referendum next month, in what will be the military’s first test at the ballot box.

The protesters have also begun rallying against the constitution, with many wearing big red stickers that read: “We vote No.”

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