BANGKOK—Rubber bullets cut through tree leaves. Canisters hit the bitumen and belched out tear gas. Antigovernment protesters searched for cover or ran from the pain inducing haze along a road not far from Thailand’s Government House, their intended target on Sunday.
Water or saline is provided for those affected by the gas. Others yelled and pointed at riot police on the other side of a small Bangkok canal.
It isn’t long before several protestors resumed throwing cheery bomb firecrackers or larger incendiary devices at the police who were well hidden in cover. Another protestor hurls an ineffectual Molotov cocktail and a street vendor’s makeshift tent briefly catches fire.
Dozens of other protestors make their way towards a bigger melee at Chamai Maruchet Bridge. Here large groups of protestors vainly attempt to break through three lines of concrete barricades, razor wire and more police.
On the other side of the bridge is Thailand’s Government House, one of the protestors’ intended targets on ‘victory day’, which aimed at toppling the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The demonstrators – a mixture of royalists, middle class Bangkokians and southerners – made repeated attempts to try to dismantle the bridge’s barricades using ropes and anchors. They also pushed two wheeled barricade screens of their own towards the police positions to provide some cover against the gas and the water cannon.
But they get forced back and return to a safe distance, mostly up the wide Phitsanulok Road where over 5000 other protestors are gathered.
While their bid on Sunday to take Government House was unsuccessful, other protest groups managed to seize – without the use of force – several other government buildings on Sunday such as the state broadcaster Thai PBS and the Public Relations Department.
The protestors had already earlier last week seized a number of government buildings including the Finance Ministry which is now functioning as one of the current protest bases.
For most of November, Bangkok experienced a large number of antigovernment protests which were initially protesting an amnesty bill that would have allowed former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand and be cleared of criminal charges. The bill was quashed but the protest continued with a focus on throwing out Yingluck’s government who the protestors say is corrupt and is controlled by her brother, Thaksin.