BANGKOK — Nineteen people were freed from a police station on Tuesday morning after spending nearly eight hours in custody for trying to remove piles of razor wires reportedly left behind on sidewalks by the police.
The group includes members of “We Volunteer,” a security network affiliated with the pro-democracy movement. Their leader Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, who was among those arrested, said they attempted to clear out the wires from Uruphong Intersection because they posed dangers to pedestrians.
“Local residents had previously asked police to remove them, but there was no response,” Piyarat said upon his release.
“We then made announcements on our social media platforms to find the owner [of the razor wires], but no one came forward,” he continued. “Therefore, we were there to collect and return them to police, before we got arrested.”
Members of the We Volunteer network arrived at Uruphong Intersection at about 9.30pm and started to remove the barricades, which were reportedly laid out by the authorities on Nov. 25 to deter demonstrations in the area.
Their cleanup operation was only announced just an hour before the gathering. Piyarat said several pedestrians were already injured by the razor wires.
A company of police officers soon arrived and surrounded the volunteers. A brief confrontation ensued, and police eventually arrested 19 people at the scene. They were taken to Phayathai Police Station where they were charged with illegal assembly and resisting arrests.
Police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said the arrests were made after the protesters refused to comply with instructions from the law enforcement.
“They have no power to uninstall police’s equipment,” Col. Kissana said. “We had asked them to disperse, but they didn’t follow orders.”
Piyarat said police told him they did not try to remove the razor wires by themselves because the equipment actually belonged to the army.
He said his group will continue to remove other crowd control obstacles abandoned by the authorities across Bangkok; the activist did not disclose details about their next target.
“We will notify local police next time,” Piyarat said.