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Gunshots fired at Thai protesters

15 January 2014, 10:48

Bangkok - Gunshots rang out in the heart of Thailand's capital overnight in an apparent attack on anti-government protesters early on Wednesday that wounded at least two people and ratcheted up tensions in Thailand's deepening political crisis.

Most of Bangkok remains unaffected by the latest wave of rallies. But the shooting was the latest in a string of violent incidents that have kept the vast metropolis on edge amid fears the country's deadlock could spiral out of control.

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

Sompong Pongsattha, a 56-year-old resident who witnessed the attack in the Pathumwan district, said about 30 gunshots were fired from an unknown location toward a protest barricade over the course of about two hours.

He said only a few demonstrators were there at the time, and the wounded woman had to be carried to another intersection to be taken to a hospital.

Dissolve government 

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.

In the west of the city, several people poured gasoline on a tour bus that had been used by protesters, setting it ablaze, according to Police Colonel Napol Kladkhempetch.

Yingluck has tried to ease the crisis by dissolving Parliament and calling for elections on 2 February. But there are growing doubts that the vote will take place 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, Yingluck insisted she wouldn't quit while the protesters reiterated vows not to negotiate, leaving no way out in sight.

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

The protesters are boycotting the February poll because they know Yingluck's party would win as it did in 2011. Instead, they are calling for an unelected "people's council" to amend laws to fight corruption in politics, while an appointed prime minister would help administer the country for up to two years.

- AP


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