Thai police deploy water cannons to end mass protests

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Thai police put an end to mass anti-government demonstrations on Friday with the use of water cannons. Tens of thousands of Thai people have been demonstrating against the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and the king for almost three months.

Protesters demand reforms

A day earlier, the Thai government imposed emergency regulations banning the demonstrations. That did not stop the protesters, mainly young people and students, from taking to the streets on Thursday and Friday.

When the protesters did not heed the call to leave, the officers deployed water cannons containing a chemical liquid. They also used clubs to disperse the crowd.

The organization then heralded the end of the protest.

A demonstrator washes her eyes after the demonstrations. According to international journalists, the water cannons contained a chemical liquid that irritated the eyes. (photo: ANP)

The protesters demand the resignation of the prime minister and want previously arrested activists to be released. They also want the monarchy to be reformed.

The government and the king have been grappling with the protests for months, which are seen as the greatest challenge facing the Thai elite in years.

Friday can be seen as the biggest escalation of the protests to date. Previously, the riot police did not use much violence against the demonstrators. More than forty demonstrators, including some protest leaders, were arrested in recent weeks.

A pre-recorded video of King Rama X was shown on Thai television after the protests. In it he called for patriotism and respect for the monarchy. He did not respond to the mass demonstrations.

That the protesters are critical of the power of the king is unique. In Thailand there are very high prison sentences for lese majesty. The royal family is generally respected by the Thai, but after a series of scandals with Rama X, who became king in 2016, criticism grew.

While the corona crisis has left millions of Thai unemployed, the king leads an exuberant and luxurious life in an expensive villa in Bavaria, Germany. This year he spent only a few weeks in Thailand.

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