BANGKOK — As many as 20 people are said to be under arrest on Tuesday evening after police officers broke up a small rally held in anticipation for a larger anti-government protest set for tomorrow.
The police moved in on the rally opposite the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue while activist Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa was giving a speech, about one hour before a royal motorcade was scheduled to pass through the road.
A scuffle broke out between the demonstrators and the police, and blue paint was thrown at some officers. A total of 20 people were detained including Jatupat, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.
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Police spokesman Kissana Phattanacharoen said the suspects would be charged with violating the Public Assembly Law for failing to notify the authorities about their rally.
“No matter where a gathering takes place, the police have a duty in providing security and order,” Col. Kissana said. “If anyone [wants to] do anything illegal, I want others to help discourage them from doing so.”
Jatupat and others were sent to the Royal Thai Police headquarters for questioning. In response to the arrests, anti-government activist Parit Chiwarak led several hundred people to stage a protest in front of the police headquarters and demanded their unconditional release.
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The royal convoy later passed through Ratchadamnoen Avenue without incident, though a number of demonstrators flashed the anti-regime three-finger salute at the motorcade in defiance.
A much larger protest is expected to take place on the avenue tomorrow afternoon. Protest leaders call for the government’s resignation, a new Constitution, and reforms of the monarchy.
His Majesty the King is also scheduled to travel through the same route at about 5pm on Wednesday. Police commanders have warned the demonstrators not to show any gesture of disrespect to the motorcade.