BANGKOK – The Royal Thai police reclaimed a main Bangkok thoroughfare on Friday that has been occupied for months by Anti-government protesters. Some 5,000 police with shields at the ready began their operation early Friday to disperse anti-government protesters occupying areas of Bangkok.
Friday’s police operation came as Thailand marked a Buddhist holiday, leaving many protest sites with few on hand as people visited temples.
There were no serious outbreaks of violence, but police retreated from a government administrative center about 25 kilometers from central Bangkok when protesters led by a Buddhist monk blocked their path.
Police pulled back from confrontation with protesters after a stand-off at another site in the north of the capital, and made no move against the largest sites at intersections in the city’s main shopping and business districts.
“Our strategy is to do this slowly, and work inwards from areas outside of central Bangkok towards the main protest sites,” said national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew.
“We are not dispersing the protesters or using force, we are using negotiations as our main tactic.”
As police entered the protest zone near Government House, they called for co-operation through a megaphone: “It is necessary for the police to clear this area. … For your own safety please strictly follow police instructions.”
There was no resistance from protesters, who had abandoned the site and regrouped elsewhere before police arrived.
The police squads tore down a sandbagged barrier that had closed a major boulevard to traffic. They dismantled tents where the protests had camped out overnight and searched for weapons. Authorities said they confiscated slingshots, firecrackers and a variety of materials they said could be used for explosives, including a small bag of urea, metal objects and other items.
Demonstrators afterward gathered outside the gate of the city police headquarters to protest the action.
Until now, police have avoided dispersing demonstrators for fear of unleashing greater violence.