Bangkok: Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand clashed with police on Saturday night while seeking the release of four comrades awaiting trial on charges of defaming the monarchy. The four top leaders of the student-led movement were ordered to stay in custody on the so-called lese majeste charge, which carries a punishment of three to 15 years in prison. They were also charged with sedition.
The movement campaigned last year for PM Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down, the constitution to be amended and the monarchy reformed to make it more accountable. The demand about the monarchy is the most controversial, because the institution has been widely considered an untouchable, bedrock element of Thai nationalism.
Police deputy spokesperson Krissana Pattanacharoen said more than 20 police were injured and seven or eight protesters detained. There was no information on the number of protesters hurt when they tried to breach heavily defended police lines.
At one point, footage showed riot police descending on and beating a medical volunteer who was waiting for his friend, another volunteer, to fix his motorcycle. The man wore a green vest identifying him as part of medical volunteers offering service at protests.
The volunteer service said the man was taken to a police station, and police said he was released Sunday morning.
The protest began at Bangkok's Democracy Monument, where participants were urged to write their wishes for Thailand's future on a big red cloth that was wrapped around the structure as those present sang the national anthem.