Thai protesters defy police water cannons to deliver letters

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Police use water cannons to disperse pro-democracy protesters during a street march in Bangkok, Thailand Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. The protesters continue to gather Sunday, led by their three main demands of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's resignation, changes to a constitution that was drafted under military rule and reforms to the constitutional monarchy. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK – Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand were confronted by riot police and sprayed by water cannons Sunday as they tried to approach Bangkok's Grand Palace to deliver letters about their political grievances addressed to the country's king.

The pro-democracy movement has been pushing a bold challenge to reform the country's monarchy with almost daily demonstrations. Sunday marked the second time water cannons were used against the protesters during several months of demonstrations.

The melee was brief, and police later allowed the protesters to place four red mock mailboxes near the palace walls into which protesters could place their letters. People then went home, ending the protest.

The police had let loose with their water cannons when protesters pushed aside one of several buses serving as a barrier to marchers trying to approach the palace, which houses the royal offices but is only used by King Maha Vajiralongkorn on infrequent ceremonial occasions. The attempt to break through came after police had declared their march illegal and asked for protesters to send representatives to talk.

The protesters had met earlier at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument and marched as darkness fell, pushing past an initial thin line of police. Protesters threw objects at police during the melee, but both sides backed off after a few minutes and it appeared that no one suffered any serious injuries.

“People just wanted to submit the letters. There was no sign of violence from protesters at all," said protester Thawatchai Tongsuk, 36. “If the police gave way, I believe that the leaders would have submitted the letters and then been finished. Everyone would go home.”

“The more violence they use, the more people will join the protest,” Thawatchai said.

The demonstrators had solicited letters to the king from protest supporters that marchers said they intended to deliver, though the action was clearly a symbolic one, with the ultimate disposition of the missives unclear. It was the latest gimmick by the protest movement to maintain public interest in their cause.