Bomb device explodes on Saturday evening after broken up pro-democracy protest in Bangkok
The protest on Saturday began when a group called ‘Free Guard’ assembled at Victory Monument with three blank 112-metre banners and called upon members of the public to write on them expressing their opinions on the government and the controversial Article 112 Lèse-majesté law. Forced from Victory Monument, they were later broken up by police and a riot squad at Chamchuri Square leading to scuffles and subsequent arrests.
Police officers in Bangkok are investigating an explosive device that went off at the end of a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on Saturday evening following the arrest of key protest leaders by police earlier in the day after scuffles between police including riot squad units and a group calling itself ‘Free Guard’ broke out. The investigation is focusing now on the detonation mechanism used in the bomb.
An investigation has been launched after an explosive device went off in the centre of Bangkok on Saturday sometime after demonstrators who had reconvened in the Chamchuri Square area of the city on Rama IV Road, had just left the scene of a pro-democracy protest following the arrest of two protest leaders earlier in the day by Border Patrol Police.
The blast is reported to have gone off at 5 pm approximately and caused injury to three people at the scene, two of them police officers and the other an online news reporter for the popular Thai outlet, The Standard.
Two police officers hurt and a media reporter
It is understood that the reporter was hit by shrapnel from the blast in the calf. Similar injuries were suffered by the police officers named as Police Corporal Chakrit Pinit and Lance Corporal Atthapol Chanchomnak. One of them was hit in the hand.
Police investigators are looking to establish the type of explosive device used to ascertain how it was detonated and are also trying to form an opinion on who is likely to have planted it.
‘Free Guard’ turned up on Saturday at Victory Monument with three large 112-metre blank banners
The day’s events had started when a protest group called the ‘Free Guard’ set up near Victory Monument at Samyan Mitrtown at Chamchuri Square having been dislodged earlier, by police action, from Victory Monument.
The protesters carried three blank banners, each at 112 metres long and began inviting the public and passers-by to write messages to the government regarding its performance but also on the current use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code against protesters.
Article 112 of the Criminal Code not used from 2018 to 2020 reportedly at the request of the King himself
Between 2018 and the end of last year, Article 112, the lèse-majesté law, which prohibits criticism or defamatory commentary of the Thai monarchy, had fallen into disuse reportedly at the special request of King Maha Vajiralongkorn himself after he ascended the throne in 2016.
However, in November, the government adopted a tougher tone and began rolling out charges under Article 112 against protesters who began to call for reform of the monarchy in August increasingly dragging the revered institution into the political discourse and debate.
This caused grave public disquiet in Thailand across the political spectrum and at all levels of society.
A Super Poll opinion survey in Thailand in early November had shown that over 80% of the public believed that third parties were behind the student-led street protests in Bangkok with an earlier survey by NIDA showing 60% opposed to involving the monarchy in the country’s political dialogue.
Article 112 has been in place for over 100 years but was made more severe in 1957 and used more extensively after the 2014 coup
Up to 40 people, some of them still teenagers, have now been charged since November under the draconian Article 112 law which recently has led to weighty jail sentences.
The law has been on Thailand’s statute books since the early part of the 20th century when the Criminal Code was first promulgated but was strengthened in a law passed in 1956 and which came into effect on the 1st January 1957, to incorporate all criticism of the monarchy even within the context of political discourse which had earlier been an exception.
The scope of the law after this was expanded by court decisions and precedent in line with the growing support for the monarchy in Thailand which rose significantly in the 1970s and 80s.
Up to 40 protesters charged since November in a government crackdown after violent riots in Bangkok
The law was used extensively by military panels or tribunals as well as courts after the 2014 coup which has seen some of the stiffest sentences handed down to even normal members of the Thai public for commentary including social media posts and activity.
The use of the new law in November followed dangerously violent scenes between police, protesters and counter-protestors outside Parliament and the Royal Thai Police Headquarters in the middle of November last year.
This was followed by a vow by senior police officers and Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, that all legal avenues would be used to bring all protest leaders who flout the law to book.
Students protested at the Education Ministry
Saturday saw a colourful demonstration by ‘Bad Students’ outside the Ministry of Education on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok to mark Teacher’s Day in Thailand.
Mocking the tradition of giving teachers a gift at this time of year, the students presented canes, scissors and rulers to acknowledge what is known in Thai culture as the ‘Third Kindness’ referring to teachers who help young people to grow preceded by parents and Buddha including Thailand sacred religious teachings.
The students dubbed their offering ‘The Third Kindness – Beautiful and Fresh’, an expression laden with innuendo.
Pictures were taken of students covered in red paint signifying blood and the perils of the Thai education system.
More Article 112 complaints against social media users to be sent to Technology Crime Division Police
The news was followed by more potential prosecutions being pursued by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society against eleven social media account holders, nine of them on Facebook and two on YouTube, for Lèse-majesté offences.
Details were given by Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta.
It was reported that the ministry is lodging formal complaints with police at the Technology Crime Suppression Division.
Up to seven protest leaders and activists arrested in Saturday’s unrest in central Bangkok
Up to seven people were arrested by the Royal Thai Police following and during Saturday’s demonstration when police were joined by a riot team who surrounded the protest as it interacted with the public on Chamchuri Square.
At least 4 people had come forward to write on the large banner with comments critical of the government, it’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and the country’s education system.
Police had earlier warned protesters to leave the area saying that they were in violation of the Covid-19 emergency decree as well as provisions of the Communicable Disease Act.
Leaders taken to Police Region One headquarters in Pathum Thani after riot squad intervention
At one point, scuffles and an altercation between arresting police officers began to escalate before Police Colonel Kissana Phathanacharoen, a spokesman with the police, intervened and called for calm and allowed protesters to go home.
Two leaders of the protest were, however, taken into detention and were later reported as being held at Police Region One headquarters in Pathum Thani by the Border Patrol Police.
This was followed by another protest by the Free Guard movement outside Phayathai Police Station calling for the release of those arrested.
That protest was broken up when police closed down the area leading the protesters to return to Chamchuri Square.
Regrouped protest at Chamchuri Square on Saturday had just finished when the bomb was detonated
After regrouping there for one hour between 3.30 pm and 4.30 pm, the crowd were ordered to leave again by police. Many protesters did leave the scene at that point. Some 30 to 40 minutes later the explosion went off.
It is being reported by Lawyers for Human Rights that in the chaos and confusion after the explosion, four more people were arrested by police and had their mobile phones confiscated by them.
Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner, Police Major General Piya Tawichai, later confirmed that two men and two women had been detained at that point.
He had just arrived to inspect the scene of the bomb blast.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.