Once again, unrest knocks Thai streets

Thai activists hoping to keep up the momentum in their campaign for democratic change launched a third major rally in Bangkok on Wednesday, amid concerns about a possible confrontation with police or rival groups supporting the government.

Despite a massive security presence and harassment from counter-demonstrators, thousands of protesters proceeded with a planned march from Bangkok's Democracy Monument toward Government House, the offices of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. "Prime minister, get out!" they chanted.

Before leaving Democracy Monument, several small clashes broke out between protesters and their opponents, who traded punches and threw plastic bottles as police tried to keep them apart.

There was speculation that the counter-protesters were organized by the authorities, with videos on social media showing municipal trucks carrying groups to the site.

The protesters negotiated their way past two police checkpoints but were blocked at a third, and it was unclear what they would do next.

The protesters' announced plan is to surround Government House for at least a night.

The protest got off to a rocky start after organizers issued a post-midnight call for followers to begin assembling at Democracy Monument at 8 a.m. to assure they could secure the venue for the rally's scheduled 2 p.m. start.

The area was blanketed with police, stationed in an organized manner but wearing yellow sports shirts instead of standard uniforms.

Yellow shirts are a symbol of devotion to the monarchy, and are strongly associated with conservative politics.

The situation had already been complicated by King Maha Vajiralongkorn's duties, which include a scheduled drive past the protest venue to attend a royal ceremony.

The protesters said they would make way but there was a possibility that they could at a minimum show public disrespect for the crown. It was not clear whether they were still on the king's route after their march.

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