Anti-government protests in recent weeks have resulted in violent clashes after police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Thai protesters have planned mass demonstrations on Sunday with convoys of cars to converge on several locations in Bangkok, demanding Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha resign amid rising anger over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anti-government protests in recent weeks have resulted in violent clashes after police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse protests in front of Prayuth’s residence. Authorities say public gatherings are illegal under the COVID-19 emergency.
The organisers of Sunday’s “car mob” said protesting in cars would help prevent the spread of the virus, promising to demonstrate peacefully with a clear timeframe for the start and end to the activities.
“The three routes that we plan clearly avoid passing high-security areas or sensitive places that can lead to confrontation,” said activist Nattawut Saikua, one of the organisers.
The police said the use of force is sometimes necessary to maintain public order, adding they have complied with international standards in using tear gas, rubber bullets and water-cannon fire.
“We need to maintain the law and keep the peace,” Thai police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk told reporters, without specifying whether the police intend to use force.
More than 130 people have been arrested in the latest round of anti-government protests since mid-July, Suwat said.
Thailand’s youth-led anti-government protest movement appears to have regained momentum and its support has broadened after demonstrations last year attracted hundreds of thousands of people before a crackdown by the authorities.
Other political groups, including some of Prayuth’s former allies, are now joining the protests as the country struggles to cope with its worst wave of COVID-19, with many blaming the government’s handling of the crisis.