Reporters: Cops blocked media from reporting the Grand Palace chaos

A riot police officer runs with a rifle during a crackdown in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Image: Khaosod English)

A number of reporters said on Thursday they were prevented from witnessing riot police’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators during a protest on Saturday.

Several journalists who were covering the Feb. 13 rally near the Grand Palace told Khaosod English that officers ordered them to stay behind the police line while they dispersed the protesters. They also said police intervention was the reason why only a few reporters were able to capture the outburst of violence on that night.

“I didn’t see what was happening in the frontline,” said Sirote Klampaiboon, who was covering the protest for Voice TV. “All I could see was there were clouds of smoke behind the police and I heard several bangs. I was only let go when the police managed to take control of the situation.”

A photo widely shared on social media also shows members of the press being confined between rows of riot police facing each other in front of the Supreme Court building – a police tactic known in Western countries as “kettling.”

Pro-democracy protesters form a line as they try to march forward during a rally in Bangkok, Thailand Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

“I can’t do my job properly because I am strucking behind the police line with several other reporters,” BBC Thai’s Paris Jitpentom said in the caption. “Please follow news from other channels. I’m sorry.”

Sirote from the Voice TV said there was no explanation from the police as to why journalists were prevented from leaving the police’s encirclement. He said he and his crew got there in the first place because police instructed them to do so.

“There was a commotion when we were told to get behind the police line,” Sirote said. “There were several bangs at that moment, so I thought it was safer to follow what the police said. But once we got inside, police set up a formation that appeared to deliberately prevent us from leaving.”

“It’s definitely deliberate,” he recalled. “It’s also against the Constitution, which protects freedom of the press. We should be able to film the arrests, but police attempted to block our view. The public deserves to know what is happening.”

Police disputed the allegations, saying they just want to make sure that everyone is safe.

“We have no intention to prevent the media from reporting,” metro police spokesman Piya Tawichai said by phone. “We are trying to accommodate the media and ensure that they are safe. Normally, we would designate a location where reporters can do their job safely without interfering with police operations.”

Khaosod English correspondents at the scene heard the police’s loudspeaker ordering reporters to move away.

A photographer takes a photo during the clashes between anti-government protesters and police near the Grand Palace on Feb. 13, 2021. (Image: Khaosod English)

“Reporters, go to the side for your safety,” the voice said. “Reporters, I ask for your cooperation. I give you 10 seconds.”

A total of 11 people were arrested during a crackdown on remaining demonstrators near the Grand Palace, some of them, including a volunteer health worker, could be seen being repeatedly hit by riot police with truncheons.

“It could mean either way,” Yiamyut said. “But since there is no official explanation from the police, I don’t know what was their intention. They used to do this in the past when they made arrests.”

Reported by: Tappanai Boonbandit
Source: Khaosod English