70 arrested near Government House in Bangkok as police move clears protest site in place for 2 weeks
A significant number involved in the protest outside Government House, which was dispersed on Sunday morning, were part of a march from Nakhon Ratchasima to Bangkok which left Korat on the 16th February last seeking the release of key Ratsadon leaders being held in prison and facing lèse-majesté charges.
Police in Bangkok on Sunday morning removed two sets of anti-government protesters outside Government House in the capital in an operation that saw 70 people arrested.
Thai police swooped on protesters early on Sunday morning to remove them from a camp that had been set up near Government House in the centre of Bangkok for the last few weeks in defiance of an order issued by the Metropolitan Police Bureau on March 13th last for those assembled there to leave the scene.
It is understood 600 officers with the Protection and Crowd Control division of the police force took part in the operation with 1,000 deployed on standby.
Awoken protesters given 3 minutes to move out
The protesters were located at a site between Chamai Maruchet Bridge and the Orathai Bridge from which police emerged in the early hours and gave the encampment assembled there three minutes to remove themselves from the scene.
Many protesters at the site were awoken by the police onslaught.
Some attempted to entreat with the officers led by Police Major General Piya Tawichai but were not entertained on this occasion.
This led to 70 protesters being arrested during the operation as police moved in.
Arrested protesters taken to Border Patrol Police Bureau headquarters in Pathum Thani to face charges
The protesters who were detained were taken in police prison vehicles to the headquarters of the Border Patrol Police Bureau in Pathum Thani where it is understood they will be charged with violation of the Communicable Disease Act 2015 and the Emergency Decree relating to the Covid-19 crisis.
Reports suggest the protest encampment comprised of two groups including the remnants of the Ratsadon march from Nakhon Ratchasima which set off from Korat on February 16th last demanding the release of core leaders including Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak alias ‘Penguin’, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem.
The group is campaigning for the release of all Ratsadon movement prisoners, the ouster of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, constitutional reform and controversial changes to monarchical powers in Thailand.
Ethnic group from Phetchaburi province at the site
This Nakhon Ratchasima group, also known as ‘People Go’, has since been involved in several protests in the capital since they arrived on March 5th last.
They were joined at the site by the Save Bang Kloi Coalition representing the ethnic Karen people from the Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi where there is an ongoing land dispute between them and officials managing the park.
Several monks are reported as being among those arrested in the early morning swoop by police.
It is believed that there will be further anti-government protests on Sunday.
Bomb disposal squad sent in before workers
After the protesters had been cleared from the location on Sunday, police sent in bomb disposal and forensics teams to comb the area looking for any potential devices and also evidence.
Afterwards, crews working with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration entered the area and set to work first dismantling structures erected by the protesters over the last few weeks and then cleaning up the area.