Gunmen wound protesters in Bangkok rally

Saturday’s shooting heightens fears of more violence during the planned city-wide shutdown next Monday.

Protesters want to stop elections from being held on February 2 [AFP]

Anti-government protesters in Thailand have been wounded after gunmen fired shots on a rally site in Bangkok.

The country is in a political crisis that has led to the dissolution of parliament and mass protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“The first attack occurred at 2.30am (local time) wounding two people, including a protest security guard. The second took place a few hours later wounding five protesters,” Police Lieutenant General Prawut Thavornsiri of the Royal Thai Police told news agency AFP.

Protesters are trying to block an election scheduled for February 2 and want Yingluck to resign immediately.

Eight people, including a policeman, have been killed and dozens injured in street violence in recent weeks, and the government has expressed concern about more bloodshed as protesters refuse to back down in their efforts to oust Yingluck and end the influence of her brother and former ruler Thaksin.

Shutdown fears

Authorities have raised fears that a planned “shutdown” by the anti-government protesters on Monday could lead to more violence.

Thousands of police are also expected to keep the peace. The authorities say they are ready to declare a state of emergency if there is fresh unrest.

The standoff is the latest chapter in a long-running conflict between supporters and opponents of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains a hugely divisive figure more than seven years after he was ousted in a military coup.

Yingluck has called an early election for February 2 to try to resolve the crisis, but the opposition — which has not won an elected majority in about two decades — is boycotting the vote, raising fears of prolonged deadlock.

The protesters want an appointed “people’s council” to run the country and oversee vaguely defined electoral reforms before new elections are held in around a year to 18 months.

Pro-government “Red Shirts” will also stage their own marches on Monday in central and northern Thailand to call for the election to go ahead, raising fears of possible confrontation between the rival factions.

Source: AFP