Saturday 20 December 2014

Gunmen shoot leader of Thai pro-government group

Rodney Grant

Published 23/01/2014 | 02:30

REFILE - CORRECTING BYLINE

Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gestures while speaking to reporters following following the declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok January 21, 2014. The Thai government on Tuesday declared a 60-day state of emergency to start on Wednesday, saying it wanted to prevent any escalation in more than two months of protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.  REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha   (THAILAND - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gestures while speaking to reporters following following the declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok

Gunmen shot and wounded a leader of a major pro-government movement in northern Thailand, and demonstrators pushing to overthrow the prime minister defied the start of a state of emergency imposed in the capital.

Kwanchai Praipana was shot twice and taken to hospital after unidentified gunmen in a pick-up truck sprayed bursts of gunfire at his home in Udon Thani, according to another leader of the group, Jutaporn Promphan.

The government announced the state of emergency this week in the wake of a string of attacks that have mostly been aimed at demonstrators protesting peacefully in Bangkok.

Grenade assaults on Friday and Sunday killed one man and wounded more than 60 people alone, bringing the casualty toll since November to at least nine dead and more than 550 hurt.

The emergency decree allows authorities to ban public gatherings, impose curfews and censor local news reports for 60 days.

But the government said it would not use those powers to crack down on demonstrators who have seized several patches of the capital, and life in the city continued as normal.

The powerful army commander, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, said "we will have to see" whether the decree helps ease the violence.

The protesters have refused to negotiate with prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but Gen Prayuth urged both sides to talk, saying, "We must stop this conflict to let the country move forward".

Gen Prayuth has repeatedly said he does not want the army to intervene, but has pointedly refused to rule out a coup.

The protesters have blocked major streets and marched on government offices in a bid to shut down the capital and force Ms Yingluck's resignation to make way for an appointed government to implement reforms to fight corruption, which they say must be implemented before any vote.

The protesters claim that Ms Yingluck's government is carrying on the practices of Thaksin Shinawatra, her billionaire brother who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, by using the family fortune and state funds to influence voters and cement its power.

Irish Independent

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