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Unrest Raises Tensions at Bangkok Opposition Protests

  • VOA News

Anti-government protesters stand at the gate of the Customs Department office in Bangkok during a protest, Jan. 14, 2014.

Anti-government protesters stand at the gate of the Customs Department office in Bangkok during a protest, Jan. 14, 2014.

Two people were wounded early Wednesday in an apparent shooting on Thai opposition protesters gearing up for a third day of mass demonstrations in Bangkok.

Security officials said a man and woman suffered minor injuries in the overnight attack, which took place near an upscale shopping district where the protesters have set up a large camp.

Authorities are also investigating a possible overnight attack on the home of prominent opposition leader and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Police said a small explosive device, possibly a large firework, was thrown onto the property of Abhisit, causing minor damage to the roof. He was not home at the time and no one was injured.

The unrest threatened to change the mood of the largely peaceful and festival-like protests aimed at pushing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.

Yingluck said Tuesday she has a constitutional duty to stay on as prime minister, and said that only cooperation and dialogue can resolve the country's months-long political deadlock.

She has already dissolved parliament, called for early elections on February 2, and proposed the formation of a national reform council as a way to resolve the crisis.

The prime minister has also invited protest leaders and other top political figures to a Wednesday meeting to discuss the election commission's request to postpone the polls until May. It is unclear whether any opposition members will attend the talks.

The protest leader, ex-Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, said he will continue the protests, and on Tuesday even threatened to detain his rival if she does not step down soon.

The protests initially aimed to "shut down" the capital, but life continued as usual in most parts of the city, though traffic was lighter and protesters blocked several key intersections.

The protests did successfully shut down or prevent from opening several government buildings on Tuesday, though officials insisted work continued elsewhere at back-up sites.

Suthep has called for a non-elected "people's council" to replace the current government and implement reforms to end corruption and money politics before any new vote takes place.

Analysts say the prime minister's ruling party is likely to win next month's snap election, which the main opposition party plans to boycott.

The opposition views Yingluck as a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, convicted of corruption and now lives in self-imposed exile.