Thai protester comatose with bullet lodged in head after clashes

Demonstrators protest for the government's handling of the coronavirus disease pandemic, in Bangkok, Thailand on Aug 15, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK – A Thai anti-government protester is in a coma with a bullet lodged in his head, a hospital said on Tuesday (Aug 17), as police denied use of live ammunition to disperse demonstrations against the country's prime minister.

A 20-year-old man was rushed to hospital on Monday with a gunshot wound to his neck and needed reviving, Bangkok's Ratchawithi hospital said in a statement.

He was now in a coma and an X-ray examination showed a bullet lodged close to his brain, it said.

At least six people were injured in clashes between the protesters and police on Monday near the residence of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Bangkok's emergency service said.

It was the sixth time in the past ten days that police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse demonstrations, which have mounted against Prayuth over his handling of the country's Covid-19 epidemic.

A 14-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound on the shoulder, said a voluntary paramedic working with the protesters.

Another demonstration was planned for later on Tuesday.

Demonstrations have gained momentum in recent weeks as groups who sought Prayuth's removal last year have returned, drawing broader support from people angered by a worsening coronavirus situation.

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Thailand has recorded over 948,000 coronavirus cases, the vast majority of those since April, and reported a record 239 deaths on Tuesday.

Police said they would investigate the violence, adding officers used non-lethal means to maintain law and order, because all forms of public gatherings were banned under coronavirus restrictions.

"The police did not use real guns," Bangkok police chief Pakapong Pongpetra told reporters.

Thirteen people were arrested on Monday.

More than 150 protesters have been charged over demonstrations since July.