BANGKOK — Companies of police in full riot gear on Monday dispersed protesters who were gathering in front of the Myanmar Embassy to denounce the military takeover in Myanmar.
Police armed with batons and shields moved in and pushed the crowd away from the embassy along North Sathorn Road at about 5pm, just as the rally was wrapping up. It is not immediately clear what prompted the harsh response from the police, but a police officer at the scene said they wanted to clear the area due to fears over coronavirus infection.
The officer, who did not give his name, said the police were not acting on any requests from the Myanmar Embassy.
Top: Khaosod English live broadcast from the protest in front of Myanmar Embassy. The crackdown starts at about 35.45 mark.
Unauthorized gatherings are currently outlawed under the Emergency Decree, ostensibly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Scores of Thai and Myanma demonstrators were rallying outside the embassy to condemn the de facto military coup in Myanmar. They were also calling for the release of State Counsellor and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who’s believed to be under custody.
A coordinator of the protest – a Myanmar national who went by the name of Che – said he was caught off guard by the crackdown, since police did not give him any warning.
Che said another protest will be called in front of the United Nations building on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on Tuesday.
Today’s rally was also organized by WeVo, a network of volunteers who provided security at previous anti-government protests. Some members of the group were seen throwing bricks at the police as they were being driven down Sathorn Road. Loud bangs were also heard, though it was not immediately clear what caused them.
Police said five officers were injured in the scuffle. A demonstrator and a photographer also had injuries, according to Khaosod English correspondents at the scene.
The U.S., Australia and others were concerned by the apparent coup in Myanmar and urged Myanmar’s armed forces to respect the rule of law.
“The United States is alarmed by reports that the Burmese military has taken steps to undermine the country’s democratic transition, including the arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials in Burma,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement from Washington.
“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” the statement said. Burma is the former name of Myanmar.
The Thai government has yet to make any formal statement on the development, but Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters he considers it “an internal affairs.”
“It’s their business,” Gen. Prawit said on Monday morning.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the ministry is monitoring the developments in Myanmar and has been in close contact with the Royal Thai Embassy in Yangon.
“Thai citizens in Myanmar are advised to remain vigilant and follow news closely,” Tanee wrote in a message released to reporters.
“Myanmar is a close neighbour of Thailand and an important member of ASEAN. Thailand hopes to see continued peace and stability in Myanmar, and that the current situation be resolved peacefully and returned to normalcy soon for the benefit of the people of Myanmar.”