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 Thailand, 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 am near the gate number 4 of Government House," the Bangkok Administration's Erawan Emergency Medical Services Centre said.
"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 yesterday. 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 on Saturday, 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 today. 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.