At least 10,000 Thai democracy activists surrounded a police headquarters building in Bangkok on Wednesday evening, splattering it with paint during one of the largest gatherings seen in the kingdom’s wave of unrest.
Protesters carried inflatable rubber ducks – a new visual emblem of the youth demonstrations that surfaced over the past two days – to the site and used squirt guns and bottles to coat the Royal Thai Police building in the central Ratchaprasong district with paint.
The size and ferocity of the protest attested to the continuing strength of a nearly five-month-old movement that in recent days some Thais had speculated was running out of steam.
It came a day after chaotic scenes outside parliament, where protesters calling for constitutional reform clashed with police and royalist vigilantes.
Fifty-five people were taken to hospital on Tuesday, according to Bangkok’s Erawan Emergency Medical Centre. Protesters had tried to breach concrete barricades erected by police outside the country’s parliament, where MPs were discussing reforms to Thailand’s military-drafted constitution.
A new charter is one of three core demands being pushed by protesters, along with the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and limits on King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s powers.
Police on Tuesday used tear gas and cannons loaded with chemical-laced water to prevent protesters from entering the complex, but some broke through the barriers.
“Yellow shirt” royalists at the scene threw rocks and other projectiles at the demonstrators. As the violence escalated, some MPs fled parliament, which sits alongside the Chao Phraya river, by boat.
Tuesday’s violence was the worst since the protests began in July. Panumas “James” Singprom, a leader of the Free Youth group, said that three protesters were shot and two had suffered broken legs.
Police denied using live ammunition or rubber bullets. “We never used any live bullets whatsoever,” Krissana Pattanacharoen, police deputy spokesman, told the Financial Times. He said police were investigating who might have used ammunition.
Thailand’s constitution, which was ratified in 2017 after the kingdom’s last military coup, reserves the entire 250-seat Senate for military appointees. Progressive Thais said the charter paved the way for last year’s widely criticised election, which installed ex-junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister.
MPs have been asked to consider seven different drafts to amend Thailand’s constitution, including bills put forward by pro-government MPs, the opposition and iLaw, a non-governmental organisation.
iLaw’s “people’s draft”, backed by more than 100,000 signatures, would allow changes to any section of the charter, including its second article, which covers the king’s powers.
However, MPs voted in favour of two draft amendments put forward by the government and the opposition, while sidestepping the iLaw draft backed by protesters.
The demonstrators have announced their next major protest for November 25 at the Crown Property Bureau, the fund that manages $40bn-plus worth of real estate and other royal assets on behalf of the Thai king.