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Thai government sticking to election date

Two anti-government protesters wounded in gun attack in Bangkok as rallies against Prime Minister Yingluck continue.

Last updated: 15 Jan 2014 14:46
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Gunshots rang out in the heart of Thailand's capital overnight in an apparent attack on anti-government protesters that wounded at least two people and ratcheted up tensions in Thailand's deepening political crisis.

The city's emergency services office said one man was hit in the ankle and a woman was hit in the arm in the shooting early Wednesday, which occurred on a street in downtown Bangkok that has been occupied by camping demonstrators trying to bring down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government since Monday.

It was the latest in a string of violent incidents this month that have kept the city on edge and fueled fears the nation's deadlock could spiral out of control.

In another incident overnight, a small explosive device was hurled into a residential compound owned by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, shattering windows and slightly damaging a roof, according to Police Colonel Chumpol Phumphuang and Abhisit's opposition Democrat Party.

No injuries were reported, and Abhisit - who resigned from Parliament last month to join protesters - was not home at the time.

Despite the incidents, Bangkok was calm on Wednesday and most of the vast city of 12 million people has been unaffected by peaceful demonstrations.

Elections called

The Southeast Asian nation's latest bout of unrest began late last year and Yingluck has tried to ease it by dissolving Parliament and calling for elections on February 2.

There are growing doubts that the vote will take place, however, and both protesters and the main opposition Democrat Party are calling for a boycott.

Yingluck's opponents are demanding she step aside so an interim, non-elected government can take over and implement reforms before any new poll is held.

On Tuesday, however, Yingluck insisted she wouldn't quit while the protesters reiterated vows not to negotiate, leaving the country's political crisis firmly deadlocked.

"I've stressed many times I have a duty to act according to my responsibility after the dissolution of Parliament," Yingluck told reporters.

"I'd like to say right now I am not holding on (to my position) but I have to keep political stability. I'm doing my duty to preserve democracy."

Yingluck proposed to meet Wednesday with various groups - including her opponents - to discuss a proposal from the Election Commission to postpone the February vote.

But protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, the Democrats and even the Election Commission has refused to take part.

Yingluck said all sides need to discuss reform because "the country is in pain and the people are suffering".

Protesters accuse her government of corruption and misrule, and for being the puppet of her older brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

He was toppled by the army in a peaceful coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction.

The poor majority in Thailand's countryside, however, broadly support Thaksin and his family because of the populist policies he implemented, including virtually free health care.

Ever since Thaksin's overthrow, the two sides have been dueling for power, sometimes violently. At least eight people have been killed and hundreds injured since the latest unrest began late last year.

Yingluck's opponents know she would win another election, and have called for an unelected "people's council" to amend laws to fight corruption in politics and institute other reforms, while an appointed prime minister would help administer the country for up to two years.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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