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Thailand protests turn violent

Photo: AFP

At least one person was shot dead as anti-government protests in the Thai capital Bangkok turned violent Saturday, with demonstrators also trying to force their way into the offices of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.


Anti-government protests in Thai capital Bangkok turned violent Saturday with at least one man shot dead and five others injured with gunshot wounds.

The circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting were not immediately clear but National Police Deputy Spokesman Anucha Romyanant said the dead man was a 21-year-old male with two bullet wounds.

It came after a day of scattered violence in the capital on Saturday, during which protesters tried to force their way into Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's heavily guarded offices and attacked people they suspected of being supporters of the current regime outside a pro-government rally.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have joined protests in recent days to call for an end to Yingluck’s embattled administration in the biggest street protests seen in Thailand since the mass rallies of 2010, which left some 90 people dead and injured hundreds more.

While their numbers have fallen sharply since an estimated crowd of up to 180,000 people joined an opposition rally on November 24, the protesters have increasingly sought out high profile targets.

Having forced their way into the Thai army's headquarters in Bangkok on Friday, demonstrators Saturday turned their attentions to Yingluck’s offices at Government House, using piles of sandbags to try to climb over barriers protecting the building.

"About 2,000 protesters of students network were trying to pressure the police" said National Police spokesman Piya Utayo, adding that demonstrators were believed to be bringing more sandbags to key locations.

"We have information that there will be efforts to escalate violence in several areas," he added.

Yingluck was not believed to be at Government House at the time.

At the same time, around 1,000 protesters led by university students tried to block people from entering Rajamangala Stadium, in the northeast of the city, where government supporters were holding a rally.

The crowd first attacked two men, one of whom was pulled off the back of a motorcycle and punched and kicked. Both men were seen being pulled away by security and treated for head injuries.

Later, the crowd surrounded a taxi believed to be carrying people wearing red shirts, a sign of government support, and shattered the windshield before the taxi was able to drive away.

Police then moved in and the students began to retreat to their nearby university but then spotted a bus carrying some passengers wearing red shirts and chased after it.

The students threw stones at the bus and then began hitting it on all sides with sticks, shattering or breaking the buses windows as terrified passengers inside dropped to the floor. It was not immediately clear if anyone on the bus was injured before it moved away.

There are fears the situation could escalate further on Sunday, with protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban calling on supporters to intensify their efforts by seizing more government ministries and key offices, including Government House.

Protest leaders backed by the opposition say they want to uproot the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet of her billionaire brother.

Thaksin, who lives in Dubai to avoid a two-year jail term for a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated, is a highly polarizing figure in Thailand. An ill-advised bid by Yingluck’s ruling Pheu Thai party to push an amnesty law through Parliament that would have allowed his return sparked the latest wave of protests.


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