At least two people were killed and dozens wounded in the latest flaring of violence in Thailand, as opponents of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra continued with a bid to shutdown the capital and end her rule.
A five-year-old girl was among the dead and at least 30 people were wounded after gunmen sprayed bullets at an anti-government rally in eastern Thailand, police said on Sunday, the Agence-France Press news agency reported.
The aim was to disturb the rally
Unidentified gunmen on two pick-up trucks opened fire on a packed market place late on Saturday in the Khao Saming district of Trat province where the rally was taking place, according to police lieutenant Thanaphum Naewanit.
Naewanit said he believed the attack was politically-motivated.
"The aim was to disturb the rally," he said.
Until the attack, the sporadic violence that has marked the country's three-month political crisis had taken place in or around Bangkok, where protesters are carrying out a self-styled "shutdown" of key intersections across the city.
Seventeen people have been killed, including protesters and policemen, and hundreds injured in gunfire and grenade blasts linked to the demonstrations.
The ongoing protests are the latest chapter in a political conflict that has gripped Thailand for eight years and broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and elite, and followers in the south, against rural backers of Yingluck and her brother.
The pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on Sunday vowed to "deal with" opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban in what may set the scene for clashes between the two groups.
"This fight will be harder than any other ... You must think how we can deal with Suthep and those supporting him," Reuters news agency quoted Jatuporn Prompan, a UDD leader and senior member of the ruling Puea Thai Party, as saying while addressing thousands of cheering supporters in Nakhon Ratchasima, northeast of the capital.
It was unclear whether Jatuporn was calling for an armed struggle.
Anti-government protesters have blocked Bangkok intersections for weeks with tents, tyres and sandbags, seeking to unseat Yingluck and halt the influence of her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, an ousted former premier regarded by many as the real power behind the government.
The protests are the biggest since deadly political unrest in 2010, when Thaksin's "red shirt" supporters paralysed Bangkok in an attempt to remove a government led by the Democrat Party, now the opposition.
Adding to her basket of challenges, Yingluck is also facing charges filed against her last week by Thailand's anti-corruption body over a rice subsidy scheme that has left hundreds of farmers, her natural backers, unpaid.
Yingluck, who has been facing massive protests for at least three months, is due to hear the charges on Thursday.