Protest leader freed by ‘unknown men’ after arrest: Thailand anti-government protest co-leader Somkiat Pongpaibul of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) was set free by “unknown men” minutes after being arrested by police as they retook a rally site in Bangkok on Tuesday morning, according to reports.
Mr Somkiat was arrested, handcuffed and held in a detention vehicle during the police operation to retake the Phan Fah Bridge protest site on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in the historic quarter of the city.
“About 20 minutes later, a police officer approached me and asked whether I would try to escape. He took the handcuffs off after I promised I would not do so,” said Mr Somkiat in an interview with Bluesky satellite television station.
He said some 15 minutes later three men whom he did not know freed him from the paddy wagon at the same time as the sounds of gunshots and explosions rang out, according to a Bangkok Post report.
The policemen guarding the detention vehicle took cover, allowing him to escape, he said.
PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said the protest group will definitely not allow the government to retake Government House, the Interior Ministry, or its five strongholds located at Ratchaprasong, Pathumwan, Lumpini, Asok and Chaeng Wattana.
He called on the government’s Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) to explain why police used violence to retake the Phan Fah Bridge site with the use of teargas and weapons, causing many injuries, said reports.
He said protesters had discovered grenade levers, M16 bullets and rubber bullets at the scene of the confrontation between police and protesters.
Meanwhile, police said they found weapons when they seized the anti-government rally site near the Energy Ministry on Tuesday, including 12 homemade bombs, 22 giant firecrackers, one teargas cannister, and four bags of nitrate powder.
CMPO director Chalerm Yubamrung said police operations to retake protest sites will continue until all are freed of demonstrators.
He said caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had called him Monday to make sure that the CMPO would not resort to violence in its operations.
He also said special police teams were put on high alert, waiting for the right time to arrest PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban and other core members.
Jatuporn Prompan, co-leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) called on Mr Chalerm to arrest Mr Suthep, arguing that it is the only way to end the ongoing anti-government rallies.