The incident on 23 December 2013 during which anti-government protesters blocked the venue of the poll registration and surrounded Din Daeng Police station, overshadowed another incident that took place the same day. Protesters of the ‘Network of Students and People for Thailand’s Reform’, led by Nitithorn Lamlua broke into the DSI office building at Chaeng Wattana’s government district, protesting against the freezing of protest leaders’ bank accounts and accusing DSI chief Tarit Pengdit of abuse of power.
I went well ahead of the announced time, and arrived shortly after 9 am. About 100 protesters had already gathered in front of the building, with a thin line of police behind a fence guarding the entrance area. Some of the protesters recognized me, pointed their fingers, and insulted me. Anchalee Paireerak arrived and posed for photos with admirers. As the main protest group of about 2000 protesters marched on foot it took a long time for them to arrive.
Around lunchtime they came, moving in formation, with a few speeches from their two mobile stages, before quickly proceeding to take the fences away and pushing the police officers aside. I pulled back straight away, and slipped with a group of police officers through the door into the DSI building. Police officers and DSI guards tried to close the doors, but were unable as the protesters wedged their flag staffs between the doors.
When I saw that police was unable to stop the protesters from coming in, I ran to the back of the building, quickly snapping a few more images. I went with police to the second floor, from where we escaped over a bridge to the Constitution Court building. The protesters by then surrounded the DSI building.
The police officers were quite frustrated. They said that they were under strict orders not to use any force against the protesters: “It’s not that we cannot stop them, we are just not allowed to even use batons against them when they attack us”. They also said that if they used force, they feared that the military could use this as a reason to side with the protesters.
When things remained calm I slipped out to attend an appointment I had in another office in the government complex. After the protesters left the DSI building I went back. The guards there told me that they and remaining police officers managed to persuade the protesters from going into the upper floors of the building. The guards said that protesters stole two walkie-talkies from them, and possibly the smartphones and laptops of police officers, but that they were not clear yet about the exact number of items. The only damage I could see were a few scratches at the glass doors, and a broken CCTV camera at the entry.