Thousands of anti-government protesters in Bangkok and other provinces blared their car and motorcycle horns on Sunday in a deafening call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The honking began at 6pm during the playing of the national anthem, the climax of a day of predominantly peaceful “car mob” rallies in Bangkok and other provinces.
The rallies were organised by red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar and activist Somsak Boonngam-anong. Other groups, including Tha Lu Fah, also took part in the parades.
They demanded the prime minister resign over the government’s inept handling of the Covid-19 crisis, with new cases and deaths surging throughout the country.
Motorists also hit the roads in other provinces, including Chiang Mai, Chanthaburi and Chon Buri.
But organisers in Surat Thani decided to scrap their planned rally for safety reasons after police refused to grant permission for it, citing the ongoing emergency decree.
People lined the streets to show support for the demonstrators as the convoys passed by.
Police secured key locations in Bangkok, including the headquarters of the Royal Thai Poice near Ratchaprasong intersection — the starting point for one of the rallies — and a section of Vibhavadi Rangsit Road leading to the residence of Gen Prayut, where they blocked the road with freight containers to forestall a march on his house.
Protesters shelter behind traffic barriers during a clash with riot police in Din Daeng area of Bangkok on Sunday. (Photo: Apichit Jinakul)
The day of protests was overwhelmingly peaceful, but violence did erupt at Din Daeng intersection, the scene of other recent clashes. Police fired water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators who approached the shipping containers.
It was not immediately clear which group organised the Din Daeng protest, since the location was not on the itinerary of the car mob rallies planned by Mr Nuttawut and Mr Sombat.
The red-shirt leader said on Voice TV’s Facebook page that all sides should end the violence, and called on security forces to set an example.
He abruptly left the rally site at Ratchaprasong shortly before the playing of the national anthem and rushed to the scene of the clash in Din Daeng, where he pleaded with defiant protesters to retreat and avoid confrontations with police.
“Please move back from the area because it is not safe. We will not try to defeat riot police. We will defeat Gen Prayut,” he said before negotiating with police to end the clash.
Several protesters remained in the area, however, with sporadic skirmishes continuing.