One of Bangkok's major intersections has been sprayed with gunfire, leaving at least six people wounded, on the eve of Thailand's disputed election. Voting is expected to proceed in most of the country.
Supporters and opponents of Thailand's government clashed outside a mall in northern Bangkok on Saturday. Gunmen among the crowds opened fire, wounding numerous Thais and an American photojournalist.
Saturday's clash took place in Bangkok's Laksi district as opposition demonstrators tried to block ballot box deliveries and were confronted by local supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Bystanders ducked behind a pedestrian bridge and sheltered inside the shopping mall as the gunfire went on for one hour.
Emergency services said at least six people were wounded, including a Thai newspaper reporter and American photojournalist James Nachtwey, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Masked men openly fired handguns. Security forces fired warning shots in the air with M-16s to enable protestors under a highway elevation to escape.
Since November, opposition protestors – mainly Bangkok's middle class and Thai southerners – have demanded that Yingluck quit and make way for an unelected "people's council." Her elder brother, ex-premier Thaksin was deposed in 2006 and has lived in exile since 2008.
The crisis has claimed 10 lives since November and left nearly 600 others wounded.
Opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, said on Friday night his side "won't do anything that will hinder people from going to vote."
Analysts say Yingluck is likely to score a problematic win in Sunday's poll, helped by strong support for her brother Thaksin among rural Thais in northern and northeastern regions. Opponents accuse his family of being corrupt.
Parliament might not end up with enough members to govern because voter registration has been blocked in some southern districts. That could lead to delay as by-elections take place.
Bangkok-based writer Chris Baker said a "judicial coup" could also emerge in which judicial entities, such as Thailand's Anti-Corruption Commission, might still tried to bring down a government headed Yingluck.
On Sunday, some 130,000 police are to be deployed at 93,000 polling stations. More than 47 million are registered to vote.
Thailand's military has stayed on the sidelines so far. It has a history of having staged or attempted 18 coups in 81 years of on-off democracy.
ipj/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)