Police filed charges yesterday against an alleged ringleader and five other people accused of involvement in an anti-coup rally in the Thai capital that turned violent and left 270 injured.
About 200 police and 70 protesters were hurt in a clash sparked late on Sunday during a protest against Thailand's military-installed government outside the Bangkok home of former prime minister General Prem Tinsulanonda, Bangkok police chief Lieutenant General Adisorn Nontree said.
Two policemen were severely injured, Adisorn said in a telephone interview.
Six suspects were charged with "causing chaos, obstructing the work of authorities, and damage of state property, and they include a protest leader, Noparut Worachitwutikul," Police Colonel Supisal Pakdeenarunart said.
Several thousand people rallied outside Prem's house, whom they accuse of instigating the coup that ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September last year. They called for the octogenarian Prem, who was home at the time, to resign as top adviser to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
"Investigators are gathering evidence and witnesses to file more serious charges against the protest leaders," Supisal said.
Adisorn said they would seek arrest warrants yesterday or today for eight more organizers of the rally, six of whom were top members of Thaksin's now disbanded Thai Rak Thai party.
The most serious fighting developed on Sunday night when police tried to detain protest leaders as they spoke from a makeshift stage on top of a truck.
After the first police effort to detain the protest leaders failed, the crowd began throwing bottles and other objects at the security forces as they retreated.
Sporadic charges by police using pepper spray set off street fighting and wild chases through the area, a usually quiet Bangkok district filled with military and government offices far from commercial areas of the Thai capital.
"The police have exercised the utmost patience but they [the demonstrators] have tried in every way to hurt the security officials there and break through the blockades the police set up outside the house," Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman for the military's Council for National Security, said during the protest.
Adisorn said police increased security around Prem's house yesterday morning.
Sansern said there were 3,000 to 5,000 protesters and that most of them were "misinformed" about the political situation. He claimed some had been paid to take part.
Although the police appeared to exercise restraint, some protesters accused them of abuse.
"Policemen definitely overreacted. ... They beat protesters up with batons and dozens of protesters were injured," a protest organizer said yesterday.