Thai protester killed as election tensions rise

Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:37am EST
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By Sinthana Kosolpradit

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai protester was killed and four wounded on Saturday, an emergency official said, when an unidentified gunman opened fire on demonstrators whose efforts to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have flared into violence in recent days.

The shooting came 48 hours after clashes between police and the protesters, who are determined to disrupt a snap February 2 election called by Yingluck, outside a voting registration center in which two people were killed and scores wounded.

The violence is the latest in years of rivalry between Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment and the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist former premier who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile.

Petphong Kamjonkitkarn, director of the Erawan Emergency Centre in the capital, Bangkok, told Reuters one man in his 30s had been shot dead. Four suffered gunshot wounds.

The protesters have been rallying for weeks in their attempt to topple Yingluck, who they see as a puppet of her brother, and they have vowed to block an election that Yingluck would most likely win.

Yingluck, who draws her support from the rural north and northeast, is determined to go ahead with the poll. On Friday, her government asked the military for help to provide security for candidates and voters.

However, the chief of the heavily politicized army declined to rule out military intervention, responding that "the door was neither open nor closed" when asked if a coup was possible.

Several hundred protesters are camped out in tents around the walls of Yingluck's Government House offices, one of several rally sites around the capital. Witnesses said they were sleeping when gunfire rang out at about 3.30 a.m. (1530 GMT Friday).   Continued...

Riot policemen walk around during a registration of election candidates at a bus terminal centre near the Government complex in Bangkok December 28, 2013. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha