Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has denied accusations that the government ordered the police to disperse protesters camped near Government House on Sunday so newly appointed cabinet ministers could have a photo shoot the following day.
Political opponents accused the government of clearing away people from the so-called Mu Ban Thalu Fah protest site in preparation for the group photo on the Government House lawn yesterday.
On Sunday, police dispersed the protest and arrested 99 demonstrators. The protest was broken up early in the morning only to see a regrouping later in the day. They managed to retake their protest site in the evening.
Gen Chan-o-cha yesterday dismissed accusations that the protesters were dispersed because of the photoshoot. He said he has put up with protests for many weeks.
The protesters reportedly shouted obscenities at the motorcades of the prime minister and other cabinet members arriving or leaving Government House.
Gen Chan-o-cha said the authorities needed to vacate the site because the protesters caused traffic congestion and became a nuisance to nearby schools.
He said the demonstrators did not comply with the Public Assembly Act and violated many laws such as the Communicable Disease Act and traffic regulations.
“You have to look at the law,” the premier said. “If I don’t take action, road traffic will continue to be disrupted. We are just taking back public space.”
“And they had been warned to leave,” he said.
Pol Maj Gen Piya Tavichai, deputy chief of Bangkok Police, said the arrests were necessary because the protesters broke coronavirus preventive measures.
The People Movement for a Just Society group issued a statement denouncing the government for using excessive force to end the protest.
The statement said the government failed to comply with law on the dispersal of demonstrations and made arrests and conducted searches without a warrant.
Arunee Kasayanont, spokeswoman for the opposition Pheu Thai Party, said the party was concerned about the dispersal, calling it illegitimate and not in line with international standards of crowd control.