Thailand: Violent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and royalists in Bangkok

Anti-government protests in Thailand reached a head on Tuesday, turning violent outside the country’s parliament in Bangkok.

Inside, lawmakers are considering proposals to amend the constitution, one of the core demands of the nation’s student-led pro-democracy movement.

The movement is calling for the removal of prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army ruler, reforms to curb the powers of the monarchy and an end to harassment by authorities.

Pro-democracy protesters at the site were pushed back by police water cannons before they clashed with groups who support the royal family.

Sky News reporter Tony Cheng reports on the ground in Bangkok.

Some of the parliament’s staff are peering through the building’s locked gates at the scene of chaos unfolding just outside.

Anti-government protesters are attempting to topple concrete barriers, removing barbed wire and marching on the parliament building.

But the police are waiting for them.

Jet after jet of high-pressure water is fired through the razor wire to beat them back. Some of the water is laced with tear gas, police say. A cloud of gas now hangs over the area.

The pro-democracy protesters are hurling a barrage of insults through a loudspeaker, and the occasional bottle of coloured water flies over our heads.

In front of protesters are police armed with rifles and rubber bullets. The protest organisers say the police warned them they may fire. So far, these protests haven’t escalated to this extent.

But a police spokesman told me they will use all the means at their disposal if the protesters don’t back down.

Just behind us, a second protest group has formed.

The group surges forward, and the two lines of riot police before them melt away in their path.

But then they are met by the yellow-shirted royalists.

A police water truck surges through the barriers separating them. It’s the match that ignites 20 minutes of intense fighting as both sides seize whatever comes to hand to launch missiles against the other side.

Paving slabs, bottles and chairs fly, followed by screams, jeers and heckles.

“I’m so disappointed with what the police did to us because it’s not fair,” anti-government protester Khao Poon tells me.

“Between the two (groups) of protesters, yellow shirts and us, they didn’t treat us right. They treated (the royalists) better than us.”

Eventually the royalists retreat, and the anti-government protesters secure the junction.

And now the police are sandwiched between protesters advancing on two sides, with nowhere to retreat but parliament.

The protests, so far largely peaceful, have taken a violent turn.

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