Gunmen in Thailand’s capital have wounded an opposition lawmaker in a drive-by shooting that opposition leaders say was politically motivated. The attack comes as the country braces for close national elections in early July.
Thai opposition lawmaker Pracha Prasobdee was travelling in his car on the outskirts of the capital, Bangkok, when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire wounding him. Reports said Pracha’s injuries were not life threatening.
The shooting of a member of the opposition Puea Thai Party, came shortly after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolved the lower house of Parliament ahead of general elections on July 3.
Pracha's sister and fellow lawmaker Naruemol Thandamrong told local media she believes the attack was linked to politics.
In the July 3 election voters will elect 375 members of parliament and another 125 members will be nominated by the country’s political parties in a vote expected to be hotly contested.
The Puea Thai Party is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted from power in 2006 by a military coup. He later faced corruption charges and was sentenced to two years in prison. He fled the country before the verdict was handed down but he remains very popular.
Chris Baker, a commentator and author on Thai politics says political violence is likely to increase ahead of the vote and in line with rising election violence over recent polls. Baker says the violence reached highs during recent polls.
“It really peaked under Thaksin that elections became really very important and people started killing one another," Baker said. "I don’t think that we’ll have any step back from that … we’ll see quite a lot of rough-housing.”
The Puea Thai Party is also being backed by the pro-Thaksin United Democratic Front for Democracy, also known as Red Shirts, who led street protests in 2009 and 2010 in a bid to force the ruling Abhisit Government from power. They accused the government of lacking legitimacy because it was backed by the military. The government denies the charge.
The clashes in April and May last year between protestors and security forces killed more than 90 people dead and injured hundreds.
Baker says it is still too early to see if the main parties will be able to win an outright majority.
“There’s not really enough information available now to make any kind of prediction of the result," Baker said. "Even if we start to get some better poll data we ought to be fairly sceptical because the polling there is not very professional and people tend to lie to polling officials. It will be very difficult to gauge the likely outcome right down to the day I think.”
Thai election commission officials have asked the police to step up protection for the politicians in the lead up to the registration of candidates for the July 3 vote. Candidate registration is expected to take place on May 19.