Many red-shirt supporters arrived on motorcycles and in vans yesterday to challenge the anti-government protesters rallying on Chaeng Wattana Road.
Tensions rose at around 11am when the red shirts arrived en masse, announcing through a public address system that the rally at Chaeng Wattana was inconveniencing passenger van operators and local residents.
The red shirts gathered about a hundred metres from the barrier set up by the security guards of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).
Gunfire was reportedly heard in a confrontation between the red shirts and the PDRC guards, causing the motorcyclists and vans to back out before regrouping later.
Army officers then rushed in to stop the confrontation, and police officers also stepped in to help. The clash eventually came to end at around 12.30pm. About half an hour before that, an explosion was heard from the side of the Prapa Canal causing protesters and reporters to dash for cover behind the PDRC barrier.
Pol Maj-General Piya Uthayo, spokesman of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, said police have already arrested several suspects at security checkpoints set up around Bangkok. He said the Metropolitan Police commissioner and commanders of all police stations in Bangkok have been instructed to give top priority to keeping peace at rally sites as well as strictly enforce the law.
Meanwhile, deputy Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwaree warned Pathum Thani red-shirt leader Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kachathamkul to stop organising rallies to provoke violence and confront PDRC protesters.
Winthai said the Army could no longer tolerate Wutthipong’s act of intimidating government officials, which has led to violence.
He said that Wutthipong’s threat of taking action against protesters if the Pathum Thani governor was unable to end the PDRC rally in the province within three days was unacceptable.