An anti-government protester was killed and three others injured on Saturday when unidentified gunmen opened fire at a rally site near Thailand’s Government House in Bangkok,raising fears of violence in deeply polarised country.
The pre-dawn attack follows weeks of protests demanding resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra,triggering bloody clashes between police and opposition demonstrators.
“All of them were shot around 03.30 a.m. near the gate number 4 of Government House,” the Bangkok Administration’s Erawan Emergency Medical Services Centre said.
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“The dead man is in his 30s. He was shot in the torso,” a spokesman for the centre said. It was unclear who fired the shots.
The attacks came a day after an injured anti-government protester succumbed to gunshot wounds on Friday.
A police officer was killed and 143 people including protesters,journalists and policemen were injured after violence erupted at the Thai-Japanese Stadium on Thursday.
With one more death today,the toll has now rose to three in the latest bout of political violence in Thailand.
The protesters have been demanding Yingluck’s resignation since mid-October. The protests began after her government tried to introduce an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for the return of her brother,controversial former premier Thaksin Shinawatra currently in self-exile in Dubai.
A rattled Yingluck called the snap polls,scheduled for February 2,after weeks of protests. But the demonstrators have dismissed the election,and the official opposition has refused to field candidates. Protesters have further rejected another offer by Yingluck to form a national reform council intended to run alongside her government.
The Election Commission and the caretaker government are bracing for further violence during registration for constituency candidates which starts nationwide on Saturday.
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban last night urged EC officials in every province to listen to the people’s demand for reform before the election.
He also told his supporters to prepare for a major rally after the New Year holiday when he warned the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) will shut down the capital.
He said the PDRC will not leave “a square inch” of Bangkok for Thaksin supporters and told those who disagreed with this move to leave the capital for good.
The Election Commission yesterday decided to allow provincial election authorities to relocate their registration venues or postpone registration if demonstrators put election officials and candidates at risk,the Bangkok Post said.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul,who supervises the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order,yesterday said he would ask the army supreme commander to deploy soldiers to protect election candidates and voters across the country and to ensure a fair election.
Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn on Friday repeated the suggestion that the government postpone the February 2 election.
He said the next election should be postponed by four to six months during which time rival parties would be able to work out rules and regulations to guarantee an honest and fair polls.
“There are attempts to contact both conflicting parties so each side can voice its demands and both sides can work out an agreement,” Somchai said.
“Each side may have to lower its demands.” In a major setback for the embattled premier,Thailand’s powerful army yesterday refused to rule out a coup.
“The military does not shut or open the door to a coup,” army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said,marking a shift in the stand of the military,which has so far refused to get involved in the deepening crisis.
“Anything can happen. It depends on the situation…we are trying to do the right thing,in a peaceful way and we urge negotiations,” he had said.