Thousands of anti-government protesters have forced their way through police barriers to rally at the main gate of the parliament where parliamentarians are debating bills seeking to amend the constitution.
The protesters broke through the barriers despite being bombarded with high-pressure water jets and tear-gas. At least 9 people were reported injured in the scuffles that lasted several hours.
At press time, the jubilant protesters were rallying at the front gate of the complex as hundreds of anti-riot police watched.
Earlier in the evening police used high-pressure water jets to hold back the protesters who responded with projectiles. Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Krissana Pattanacharoen said police decided to use water cannons against the protesters after they ignored their warning to step back. He said police had declared the areas within the 50-metre radius around the parliament off-limits to the protesters.
The police spokesman said police initially used plain water against the protesters but later resorted to water laced with components of tear gas against them.
Police admitted that tear gas was later also used against the protesters while anti-riot policemen were equipped with rubber bullet guns which they threatened to use if necessary.
Earlier in the day, members of a royalist group known as “Thai Pakdee” rallied at the parliament to submit a petition against the bills seeking to amend the constitution.
Many of them stayed behind and clashed briefly with the anti-government protesters who were there to pressure parliamentarians to pass the bills. But at one point later, protesters on both sides were seen embracing each other under a hail of projectiles before agreeing to a truce.
As the stand-off between the police and protesters continued, parliamentarians shifted their debate on the bills to the situation outside. Some opposition MPs pleaded with House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to convince the police to refrain from using violence against the protesters. As the debate dragged on, a number of MPs and senators as well as parliament officials were seen leaving the compound for safety reason.
The parliamentary debate is scheduled to continue through the night and the vote on the bills will take place tomorrow.
Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)