General Boonlert Kaewprasit, the leader of the Pitak Siam anti-government protest in Bangkok.

Retired General Boonlert Kaewprasit said he called off the protest because the number of participants was smaller than expected. He blamed this on efforts by authorities and police to prevent many prospective protesters from taking part.

He did not want the protesters to risk “further violence” at the hands of police following clashes between the two sides.

Police estimated the number of protesters at 20,000, while organizers put the figure at 50,000. Earlier, Gen Boonlert had vowed that his protest would draw 1 million people.

“General Boonlert is already dead. I have lost to evil,” General Boonlert Kaewprasit said in an emotional announcement on the protest venue’s main stage under heavy rain.

He added that the protesters who were arrested during yesterday’s clash with police would get legal assistance.

At least 117 protesters – 94 men and 23 women – were being detained at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani, according to Pol Lt Gen Nares Nanthachot, commander of Police Region 1.

Many protesters became angry after hearing Gen Boonlert’s announcement calling an abrupt end to the protest. Some of them shouted that they would not join him in future protests. Some angry rain-soaked protesters threw things at crowd-control police nearby.