His warning came as further violent protests were witnessed yesterday (Aug 13) when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to block protesters from moving closer to the residence of Prayut Chan-o-cha in another rally calling for the ouster of the prime minister.
“Please think it through thoroughly,” Nattawut said yesterday in a message broadcast live on Facebook announcing a peaceful car rally calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
“I think you don’t want to see the armed forces coming out. As for those in power, I am not so sure. You’d better watch your game carefully,” he said.
Mr Nattawut’s message follows a series of street rallies in Bangkok organised by students and their allies that ended with violence. Police fired rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas at the demonstrators, who replied angrily with rocks, ping-pong bombs and giant firecrackers.
Rallies culminating in violence could be playing into the hands of those in power, he warned.
Police are under criticism for using rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters, but Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Pakapong Pongpetra has insisted this is the best strategy to curb violence by protesters.
The city police chief on Wednesday called for soldiers to help quell clashes but an armed forces source said troops may be used only to protect key locations, leaving police to handle the demonstrations.
Mr Nattawut is due to lead a car parade starting at 3pm tomorrow, calling for Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign from the prime ministership.
The rally plans to move along three routes, one from Ayutthaya to Lat Phrao intersection led by activist Sombat Boonngam-anong.
The red-shirt leader pledged that the vehicle rallies would be peaceful events and would end with motorists tooting car horns from the start to the end of the national anthem at 6pm.
He said the parades would avoid places such as Government House and the prime minister’s residence that could be used by security authorities as an excuse for violent measures against protesters.
Fresh protest met with rubber bullets, tear gas again
Yesterday’s rally organised by the Tha Lu Fah movement started at Victory Monument at 3pm with the burning of lamyai and mangosteen to protest against falling fruit prices. Participants then walked along the same route they had taken on Wednesday, with the 1st Infantry Regiment on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road as their destination.
The road was barricaded by freight containers, something the police have been doing ahead of nearly every protest in recent weeks. As the demonstrators tried to move the containers, police - some of them stationed on the elevated expressway - started firing tear gas and rubber bullets. The demonstrators countered by throwing firecrackers at police.
Organisers decided to return to the Din Daeng intersection and called off the protest at 5:30pm, but as has been the case with previous rallies, a hard-core group of stragglers stayed behind to engage in running skirmishes with police.
Some fires were set but heavy rain later caused both sides to seek shelter.
The number of injuries was not known but one of those hurt was Tanat Thanakitamnuay, the scion of the prominent property development family that controls Noble Development Plc. He was injured by a rubber bullet near his right eye socket and was sent to Mission Hospital.
Mr Tanat was once a supporter of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) whose protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government paved the way for the military coup that brought Gen Prayut to power in 2014. He was the subject of a Vice News documentary that received international attention. In 2010, when he was 18, he drove his Porsche Carrera 911 into a crowd of red-shirt demonstrators.
However, he has since switched sides and has been speaking out against the Prayut administration.
The Tha Lu Fah activists had vowed to protest peacefully yesterday after earlier demonstrations turned ugly.
“The failed management of COVID-19 by the government has caused people to die. Today we are out here to get rid of Prayuth,” said activist Songpon “Yajai” Sonthirak at the start of the rally.
Authorities have warned that any form of protest breaches emergency regulations and said that they were pressing charges in 300 cases against people involved in recent demonstrations.