Motorcade saga leads to brawl

Motorcade saga leads to brawl

Royalists, activists clash at Siam BTS

National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol emphasised the need for maximum security for royal motorcades following a clash yesterday over a motorcade protest last week.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau are concerned after an activist, Tantawan Tuatulanon, tried to interrupt a royal motorcade last Sunday. The incident led to a brawl between her group and a royalist group yesterday.

The police chief said yesterday that he visited Metropolitan Police Bureau on Friday to stress before police the guidelines in providing security for royal motorcades, emphasising the use of maximum security measures without causing any inconvenience for civilians.

The developments came after an incident on Feb 4 when Ms Tantawan, 20, interrupted the royal motorcade of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn by honking a car horn at the convoy and tried to drive into the middle of it.

Pol Gen Torsak has ordered an investigation into the case. According to him, the activist will face legal action if she broke the law. Her action drew public criticism and a police complaint for causing a public disturbance.

On Friday, Ms Tantawan posted on social media asking people to vote on whether the royal motorcade created trouble, at the skywalk of the Siam BTS station in front of Siam Paragon Shopping Mall. Her supporters showed up and so did a royalist group calling itself Thai People Protecting the Monarchy.

Shortly after the Thalu Wang group and Ms Tantawan gathered on the skywalk to conduct the poll, a violent brawl erupted. As Ms Tantawan was explaining the details of her activity — and also apologising for her driving in the earlier incident — the pro-palace group started shouting at her, with some pushing and shoving occurring between supporters of both sides.

Pathumwan police and plainclothes officers who had been deployed to maintain peace and order intervened, but not successfully.

An officer started to lead Ms Tantawan away from her critics and she did not resist. Others followed and continued to shout at her and take videos with their phones. “Rebels out!” some shouted, as more pushing and shoving ensued, and punches were thrown by both sides.

At one point, a man later identified as Arnon Klinkaew, chairman of the pro-monarchy group, was seen leaping a turnstile to chase after another man. Mr Arnon has filed a number of lese-majeste complaints against activists under Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

The clash lasted about 20 minutes. It prompted BTS staff to close Gate 4 to the BTS station and Gate 3 which links to the shopping mall. After the chaos, Ms Tantawan took her group to file a complaint with Pathumwan police against the pro-royalist group.

The latter also filed a complaint against the Thalu Wang group at the station.

Police had to separate the two groups, keeping the Thalu Wang side inside and the others in front of the station, where barriers were erected.