A protest site set up near Government House to press demands for democracy was cleared and 70 demonstrators rounded up in an operation at dawn on Sunday by the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB).
At about 6am, four companies of the Protection and Crowd Control Division police moved in on the protest site in a soi off Phra Ram 5 road by Klong Phadung Krungkasem near the Chamai Maruchet Bridge and Government House.
On arriving at the scene, the police used loudspeakers to order the protesters to pack up their belongings and leave the area in three minutes.
The protesters sought to negotiate, asking for more time to gather their belongings as it was still early in the morning. The police rebuffed them and continued to advance from the Chamai Maruchet and Orathai Bridges, surrounding the demonstrators.
Deputy MPB chief Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai said 70 protesters had been arrested and taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani where they would be initially charged with violating the Communicable Disease Control Act and the emergency decree. Several monks were apprehended and disrobed at Wat Benjamaborphit near the site, he added.
After the protesters were removed, explosive ordnance disposal and forensic police arrived to sweep the site before Bangkok Metropolitan Administration workers would dismantle the structures erected by the protesters.
The site near Government House had been occupied by two groups of protesters. The first group was the Save Bang Kloi Coalition of ethnic Karen people from the Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi. They had been entrenched by Government House since early this month demanding justice for ethnic minorities.
The second group comprised members of the Ratsakon group who had marched to Bangkok from Nakhon Ratchasima. They were demanding the release of their arrested leaders, the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government, amendment of the constitution and reform of the lese majeste law.
Members of the Ratsadon group joined the Save Bang Kloi Coalition at the site on March 13, the date Pol Maj Gen Piya said the protesters were first ordered to leave.
Representatives of pro-democracy protesters called for a rally at the BTS Asok station at 5pm on Sunday.
The MPB has ordered 600 police to handle the protest, with another 1,000 on standby.
Protesters are taken in police vans to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 head office in Pathum Thani after police cleared their rally site near Government House around 6am on Sunday.