Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters attempting to disrupt preparations for Thailand’s elections. It is the latest confrontation between police and anti-government demonstrators.
Police Lt. General Prawut Thavornsiri told news agency AFP one officer had been shot in the arm by a bullet fired from demonstrators, with around 1000 police officers deployed to keep the crowd at bay.
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in a televised address that “protesters are not peaceful and unarmed as they claimed.”
“They are intimidating officials and trespassing in government buildings,” he said.
Despite their attempts, the registering process reportedly went on unaffected. Local media reported some election officials later left the stadium by helicopter.
The clash was the first flare-up of violence in some time, with anti-government protests largely kept peaceful. Demonstrations began in late November after the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attempted to introduce a bill that would have granted amnesty to her exiled brother and former Thailand leader Thaksin, who many believe still has strong influence.
Yingluck staying put – for now
Led by former opposition lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban, demonstrators have called for the resignation of Yingluck and showed their strength in protests numbering hundred of thousands.
She has resisted calls to step down, but did dissolve the government on December 9 and called for a new election in February. It has failed to appease her critics, with the Democrat Party – the main opposition to Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party – announcing on Saturday they would boycott the election.
The Democrats believe reforms are essential before the nation goes to the polls, and have failed to accept Yingluck’s promise for a national reform council post-election.
ph/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)