BANGKOK — In air heavy with monsoon pressure and discontent, the riot police in Bangkok unleashed rubber bullets and tear gas. Tanat Thanakitamnuay, the scion of An real estate family, was standing on An truckwhere he had taunted the leaders of Thailand for their botched response to the pandemic.
Than a hard object, perhaps a tear gas canister, struck his right eye and tore his retina. Mr Tanat, who once supported the 2014 coup die Prayuth Chan-ocha brought, now the prime minister, until power, says the injury on Aug 13 cost him his vision in the eye.
“I may be blinded, but now I’m stronger than ever, I see things more clearly than ever,” he said. “People knew it a long time ago” how incompetent this government is. Covid is just more proof and proof.”
Thailand, which not so long ago was seen as a virus-containing wonder, has become another example of how authoritarian hubris and a lack of of government accountability fueled the pandemic. This year, more than 12,000 people in Thailand passed away of Covid-19, compared met less than 100 last year. The economy has been destroyed, with tourism almost non-existent and production slowed down.
Anger spreads, and not only in the streets. opposition legislators in Parliament tried pass An vote of No self-confidence in mr. Prayuth, accuses his… government of wasting months head start Thailand had to fight the coronavirus. die effort failed on Saturday, despite some members of the prime minister’s coalition had briefly sparked speculation that she might? support his eviction.
The rollout of the vaccine this summer, already late, was further hampered by manufacturing delays. A company with new experience making vaccines, the main shareholder of which is the king of Thailand, was commissioned to develop the AstraZeneca vaccine in to produce in their own country. The government’s failure to secure sufficient imported supplies, made excess of disaster. Only about 15 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, and social inequalities have let young rich tenderloinover forward of older, poorer people.
protests against the government, die now occur grow daily more desperate, and security crackdown more aggressive. At least 10 demonstrations were broken in August up with force. Bee one, a 15-year-old boy was shot and is now in intensive care. The police have denied firing live ammunition.
“Earlier, people said they weren’t coming out protest because of Covid, but now the thinking has changed to, ‘You stay with’ home and you want die anyway because of the government’s inability take care of of people’ said Tosaporn Sererak, a doctor who was once a spokesperson for the government dethroned by the 2014 coup.
More than a dozen civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued a letter on On Wednesday, authorities are urging authorities to show control.
“We are worried over the disproportionate response” of riot police to provocations by demonstrators,” said in the letter addressed to Mr Prayuth. “We are also concerned by the random detention of protest leaders who recently faced new criminal charges and has been denied bail.”
Mr Prayuth, who led the coup seven years ago as army chief, has concentrated power in his own hands, met the argument that more executive powers are needed to fight the pandemic.
He has tried to destroy public dissent by establishing a state of emergency and criminalizing certain criticisms. Hundreds have been arrested in last months for sedition, for so-called computer crimes and for criticize King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, that is against the law.
A prominent politician has been charged with insulting the monarch after he asked why Siam Bioscience, the king’s company, was contracted to churning out vaccines for Southeast Asia when it hadn’t manufactured them before.
At least a dozen leaders of protests die started last year, calling for The resignation of Mr Prayuth and… for reforms of the monarchy, are now locked up, in awaiting trial. Some have contracted Covid-19 in prison. On Tuesday, a United Nations official expressed concern that detained protesters were not receiving adequate medical care.
Sureerat Chiwarak, de mother of Parit Chiwarak, a protest leader, told her: son had become infected in a crowded Bangkok prison. Mr Parit told his mother that there were far more Covid cases in prison Then the official numbers indicated.
“Some people say: ‘Why don’t you give yourself over, they have your child? in their hands, they put him in prison,’” said Mrs. Sureerat. “No. The kids are fighting for equality, why do I have to surrender?”
With what of Covid lockdown measures in Bangkok have been lifted on The protest movement will get underway on Wednesday, even if the… crowds do not match met the tens of thousands who turned around out for rallies last year.
“When the government is authoritarian, they think they are the media, they think they can stop the people against protesting,” said Rangsiman Rome, an opposition lawmaker. “But people to come out to protest every day and demand change.”
During last year’s protests, die proceeded peacefully, the riot police were largely reluctant, despite their long history of shooting protesters.
Their reaction this summer was harsher, with protests were often quashed before they could coalesce. The police now regularly put rubber bullets, tear gas and laced water cannons in with burning chemicals. Protesters respond with their own arsenal, including flamethrowers and catapults.
Opposition figures say urge to confront police during pandemic is high sign of widespread despair.
“People who supported the government to have also have become infected, and this makes them reconsider and wonder why they have to suffer like this,” said Mr. Rangsiman.
On August 29, two anti-government protests converged in Bangkok. The first was a meeting of hundreds of autocars and motorcycles. After a period of intense honking they spread.
The second rally, smaller and angrier, formed in An business neighbourhood. Motorcyclists used paper to cover their license plates and helmets to hide their faces. Other protesters hid behind balaclavas. new one wanted to talk openly over why they were there.
The tear gas started flowing before dusk, and the police fired streams of purple water, presumably to mark the protesters. Low booms echoed and smoke filled the air while protesters threw projectiles. When the night fell, small burn burnt. On Saturday, the riot police set up to obstruct sea containers one demonstration, while a smaller protest broke out in violence.
Mr Tanat, the protester who was partially blinded last month, is a beneficiary of the privilege that Thailand in split up a tiny one group of haves and tens of millions of have-nots, a gap die has fueled political unrest for year. He said what of his rich friends had also started attending rallies, jumping on their drivers’ motorcycles to get there in instead of being controlled in their usual Rolls-Royces of Maybachs.
But most of the protesters come from the struggling class die further impoverished by the pandemic. Nipapon Somnoi told her son, Warit Somnoi, 15, had offered to quit met school at help the family, but she wouldn’t allow the.
The boy ended up at a protest in Mid-August. Video footage, die she can’t bear to look at, shows the moment a bullet hit his neck and, as a CT scan confirmed, was attached to his spine. The police reiterated that the security forces did not use live ammunition. Mrs Nipapon said she didn’t know what to believe.
Her son has been in a coma for more than two weeks. She worries that because her family neither rich nor famous, his fate will be forgotten.
“Sometimes I think, one tear gas canister could: buy six up to eight doses of An goodquality vaccine,” said Ms Nipapon. “The state keeps saying we are a democracy, but they only listen to their own” voice.”
Leave last month she sat in the hospital to caress her son’s face, met the question of he could hear her.
“There were times when I called his name and saw his eyelids move,” she said. “There were tears seeping” out. But not me know.”
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