Thailand- 55 injured as police and royalists clashed with anti-government protestors

 Both pro and anti monarchy protestors are on the streets in Bangkok for last two days

At least 55 protestors have been injured as the police and pro-monarchy protestors clashed with anti-government and monarchy protestors in Thailand’s capital Bangkok. There were reports of at least six people being shot as police said they did not open fire with live ammunition or rubber bullets. The police said they were investigating the use of firearms against protesters.

The clashes occurred as people gathered close to the Parliament as lawmakers were discussing changes to the constitution. Reports said at least 55 people were injured in clashes as security officials fired teargas shells.

Amid heightened tensions, the demonstrators advanced on security forces with makeshift shields as protests escalated. The protesters had gathered at Ratchaprasong junction in Bangkok even as the police set up barricades to prevent the protesters from advancing.

The protesters have been calling for Prime Minister Prayuth’s resignation as the opposition has repeatedly accused him of unfair poll practices to stay in power. The Thai prime minister has dismissed the allegations that the election was unfair.

The protesters have also been demanding curbs in the power of King Vajiralongkorn who sits at the apex of Thai power.

Thai lawmakers have been discussing proposals for constitutional amendment; however, the power of the royal family isn't on the agenda of Parliament. The Parliament began voting on Wednesday on amendments to be debated further.

Protests since mid-July have brought the highest pressure in years on Thailand's ruling establishment, with protesters also calling for reforms to curb the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, once a taboo subject.

The protest movement, which has called for deep constitutional reform to a system demonstrators say has entrenched the power of the military, has emerged as the biggest challenge to Thailand’s establishment in years.

Thousands of demonstrators converged on parliament to put pressure on legislators discussing changes to the constitution. The protesters also want the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army ruler, and to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Bangkok’s Erawan Medical Centre said at least 55 people were hurt. It said at least 32 were suffering from tear gas and six people had gunshot wounds. It did not say who might have used firearms.

Constitutional changes require a joint vote of the elected House and the appointed Senate. Any motions that are passed will have to go through second and third votes at least a month after this week’s balloting.

Parliament is not expected to agree on specific constitutional changes at this point. Instead, it is likely to establish a drafting committee to write a new charter.

This would allow the government to say it is willing to meet the protesters’ demands at least halfway while buying time with a process that could extend over many months.

                                                           Khalid Bhatti 

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