BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thai police clashed with demonstrators on Friday (Aug 13) after hundreds defied a ban on gatherings to rally in central Bangkok, where they attempted to march on the prime minister's residence to demand his resignation over the country's coronavirus crisis.
Police fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets from an elevated highway in response to demonstrators who tried to pull down containers that were being used as roadblocks, in a third day of confrontation this week.
Activists from the youth-led Thalufah group had vowed to protest peacefully after demonstrations this week also ended with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them, as they pressed for premier Prayuth Chan-ocha's removal.
"Prayuth, get out!" chanted the protesters as they began their march from Bangkok's Victory Monument in the afternoon.
They blame Prayuth for mismanaging the Covid-19 crisis that on Friday saw new record cases.
"The failed management of Covid-19 by the government has caused people to die. Today we are out here to get rid of Prayuth," said activist Songpon "Yajai" Sonthirak at the start of the rally. Authorities warned any form of protest breaches Covid-19 regulations and said that they were pressing charges in 300 cases against people involved in recent demonstrations.
"The police aim is to maintain peace," Bangkok police chief Pakapong Pongpetra told reporters. "Those joining protests are at risk of infection and also breaching other laws as well," he said.
Thailand's youth-led protest movement, which drew broad support during months of large and frequent rallies last year, is regaining momentum, coinciding with country's worst coronavirus outbreak yet.
Several core leaders remain in detention awaiting trial on charges of sedition and causing unrest, among other offences.