- POSTED: 28 Dec 2013 09:44
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A Thai anti-government protester was killed and several others wounded after an unknown gunman opened fire Saturday at a rally site near the government headquarters in Bangkok, emergency services said.
BANGKOK: A Thai anti-government protester was killed and several others wounded after an unknown gunman opened fire Saturday at a rally site near the government headquarters in Bangkok, emergency services said.
The pre-dawn attack follows weeks of mass anti-government protests -- seeking to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra -- that have triggered bloody clashes between police and opposition demonstrators.
"The dead man is in his 30s. He was shot in the torso," a spokesman for the city's Erawan emergency centre said.
Police confirmed the shooting but said its forensic team was unable to access the scene of the incident, which happened where a group of protesters was camped overnight near Government House.
It was unclear who fired the shots but armed provocateurs have a history of trying to stir tensions in the politically divided kingdom, with each side usually blaming the other.
Yingluck has called February elections in the hope of bringing an end to the demonstrations seeking to curb her billionaire family's political dominance.
But the protesters have vowed to block the vote, saying it will only return the Shinawatra clan to power.
Eight people, including a policeman, have been killed and about 400 wounded in several outbreaks of street violence.
The government has said it will ask the army to provide security for election candidates and voters.
The army chief insisted Friday that the military would remain neutral and said it was up to the election authorities whether the vote could go ahead, but he did not rule out another coup.
Thailand has been periodically convulsed by political bloodshed since Yingluck's older brother Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago.
The protesters, a mix of southerners, middle class and urban elite, accuse the billionaire tycoon-turned-politician of corruption and say he controls his sister's government from his self-exile in Dubai.
They want an unelected "people's council" to run the country to oversee loosely-defined reforms -- such as an end to alleged "vote buying" -- before new elections are held in around a year to 18 months.
Yingluck's government still enjoys strong support in the northern half of the country and is expected to win the election if it goes ahead.
Thaksin's "Red Shirt" supporters have accused the demonstrators of trying to incite the military to seize power again, in a country which has seen 18 successful or attempted coups since 1932.
It is the worst civil strife since 2010, when more than 90 people were killed in a bloody military crackdown on pro-Thaksin Red Shirt protests under the previous government.