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Thai protesters hit police HQ with paint, projectiles

Parliament rejects protesters' demands to cut royal powers

BANGKOK: Thousands of democracy activists marched on Thailand's police headquarters in downtown Bangkok yesterday in a second day of protest, after six people were shot during violent clashes.

The kingdom has been rocked by months of protests demanding changes to the Constitution, the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, and even changes to the untouchable monarchy.

The Thai Parliament yesterday rejected the protesters' demands for a constitutional amendment to reduce the powers of the nation's monarchy, Bloomberg reported.

Protesters - numbering more than 10,000 according to an AFP estimate - packed the Ratchaprasong intersection in the heart of Bangkok's shopping and commercial district, after their leaders vowed to step up the movement.

After daubing anti-royal slogans on walls and the ground, they marched on the heavily defended national police headquarters - led by a clown and a parade of giant inflatable rubber ducks.

They were accompanied by a Buddhist monk giving the three-fingered salute borrowed from the Hunger Games movies that has become emblematic of the youth-led protest.

Some protesters threw glass bottles and paint bombs over the walls of the police headquarters, which was barricaded with dump trucks, concrete blocks and razor wire, while others used water pistols to hurl paint inside.

Many had come equipped with helmets, goggles and gas masks to protect themselves against police action.

"We will protect our people. We don't want any violence, but there will be no compromise until they meet our demands," protester Jay, 26, said.

Yesterday's protest came a day after the most violent confrontations since the democracy movement began in July, as the police used tear gas and irritant-laced water cannons on protesters trying to reach Parliament.

More than 50 people were injured, six of them with gunshot wounds, according to medical officials, though it is not clear who was responsible for the shooting.

The police say they did not fire live rounds or rubber bullets, and they are investigating who was behind the shooting.

The Thai Human Rights Lawyers Association slammed police tactics, saying they were "not in accordance with international procedure to disperse demonstrations".

Prime Minister Prayut has urged protesters to refrain from violence but ruled out introducing another emergency decree - like the one banning public gatherings of more than four people that spanned a week last month.

But there is little sign the demonstrators are prepared to back down.

"We should not be afraid - this is just a transitional moment in our history," student leader Sirapop Poompuengpoot told the crowd yesterday.

Yesterday, protesters sprayed hundreds of anti-royal slogans, some of them obscene. Such scenes were until recently unthinkable in a country where the King and his family are protected by some of the world's toughest royal defamation laws. - AFP

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