Thailand’s largely peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators not only have to worry about escalating violence from government forces, but, now, potentially deadly attacks from hardline royalists.
A yellow-shirted monarchist was detained near the site of the protest at the parliament building in Bangkok for carrying a handgun with live ammunition shortly after six young protesters were shot and wounded, some of them seriously.
The 35-year-old man was found to have a .357 pistol and 10 bullets on him on Nov. 17, but it remained uncertain if he had been involved in shooting the protesters, some of whom were students.
The man said he had decided to join a rival demonstration in defense of the monarchy, which has come under criticism from activists who have been calling for a reform of the institution along constitutional lines.
The man said he was carrying a handgun only for self-defense.
During a spirited pro-democracy rally attended by thousands of young Thais at parliament on Nov. 17, police fired jets of water laced with tear gas from high-powered water cannon at protesters in a bid to drive them back from the perimeters of the premises.
A group of hardline royalists showed up at the site to taunt protesters and during the ensuing melee six demonstrators suffered gunshot wounds from an unknown source or sources.
In all, at least 55 people required hospital treatment in what was the bloodiest day so far during anti-government street protests that have been taking place regularly for months.
Pro-democracy activists who attended the rally said in social media posts that they had seen some hardline royalists firing weapons in their direction.
Video footage recorded at the site showed a small group of men wearing the royalist color of yellow pelting pro-democracy demonstrators with various projectiles including rocks and bottles.
Police failed to intervene to stop the skirmishing.
The original, longer version of this story first appeared on UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner,