7 Weapons Riot Police Use to Disperse Protests in August – September

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has observed that authorities have employed 7 different kinds of weapons to disperse protests throughout August and September, as follows.

1. Water Cannon, or commonly called Jino, is a high-pressure water canon vehicle used to control public assemblies. It was employed for the first time in a protest in 2013 and has seen a continuous presence since the beginning of the recent series of protests in 2020 until now.

Jino vehicles have been imported from South Korea, whose use there was banned after a 68-year-old protestor was knocked unconscious and died from it in a protest in 2016. The vehicles were purchased at 25 million Baht each, can contain up to 12,000 liters of water, and can shoot at a maximum range of 65 meters. Chemicals, tear gas, fire extinguishing foam, and dyes can be mixed in as well.

On 5 October 2021, the media reported that the Metropolitan Police Bureau announced the winning bidder to repair five water cannon vehicles (Jino) that were damaged from use in protests at the price of 47,080,000 Baht (9,416,000 each).

According to the international principle on the use of water cannon, water cannon should “only” be used in public assemblies where there is a likelihood of loss of life, serious injury, or widespread destruction of property. Moreover, Water cannon should not be used against persons at risk of injuries, such as slipping or being forced by the jet against walls, or hypothermia and cold-water shock. Water cannons should not be aimed at specific individuals.

When mixed with chemicals, water cannons must be shot at a distant range at the group of people causing violence for the purpose of dispersing them and preventing violence. They should not be used in an enclosed area, as chemicals may cause respiratory problems, dizziness, skin irritation, or even death.

2. Tear Gas is a popular tool for dispersion. Thai police currently use two kinds of tear gas: the short-ranged throwing kind and the long-ranged shooting kind.

According to the data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – Regional Office for South-East Asia, the riot control police have been trained to fire tear gas bullets, which decreases the chance of hitting targets. In practice, however, officers tend to throw tear gas canisters into the crowd of protestors increasing their accuracy as well as impacts.

The Guard Plod Aek group tweeted an image of a tear gas grenade that fell near people’s house during the 5 September protest. The event widely affected residents of the nearby flats in Din Daeng area, including a 3-month-old baby and a 4-year-old child.

There has also been an instance where officers hurled tear gas into the detention room used to keep protestors of the 27 September protest leading to suffocation.

According to the international principle on the use of tear gas, tear gas can be used to disperse protests or to stop violence by firing at a distance. Tear gas is typically discharged either in form of projectiles or shot from a launcher. Caution must be taken when tear gas is shot in an enclosed area with poor ventilation, as gas can increase in concentration. This can lead to ignition as well as certain health risks. The person may suffer death from a large extent of gas exposure.

3. Rubber Bullet is a metal bullet coated with rubber. It is designed to reduce violence and disperse crowds. According to the international principle on the use of rubber bullets, rubber bullets are to be used against violent individuals, should only be aimed at their lower abdomen or legs, and only with a view to address an imminent threat to a law enforcement official or a member of the public. Nevertheless, at least 18 people have been injured by getting hit by rubber bullets on their head in the past two months and one person became blind.

4. TASERS was first used in the 7 August protect. A taser gun costs 79,000 Baht. It functions by delivering pulses of electrical charge that cause the target to lose ability to control his/her muscles. Simply put, he/she is rendered unable to move the body.

According to the international principle on the use of tasers, tasers are used to incapacitate individuals at a distance who pose an imminent threat of injury to others or to themselves. As of now, there has been no report of protestors injured from this type of weapon.

5. Police Baton is generally made out of wood, rubber, plastic, or metal. Police officials may use batons to defend themselves against violent assailants or to effect the lawful arrest of a suspect who is resisting violently.

According to the international principle on the use of batons and shields, batons are used against individuals who are either inflicting or threatening to inflict injury on a law enforcement official or a member of the public. Baton strikes should be targeted against the assailant’s arms or legs only.

6. FN303 gun that can hold at least 8 kinds of round bullets. It was first sighted in the dispersion of the 16 September protest. Thai Press reported that this weapon was banned and destroyed in Boston, the United States, after a protestor was shot in the eye and through the brain costing him life.

7. Laser. It was found that riot control police have begun to use blue and green light laser against protestors and press members in September. Laser works by emitting bright light to temporarily disrupt individual’s visual ability. Using a sub-standard laser device may cause permanent blindness on the target. In addition to harming the retina of protestors and members of the public, laser can also damage cameras of press members.