A police officer has died after security forces clashed with anti-government protesters in Bangkok, according to the hospital to which he was taken. The protest had been held to disrupt election preparations.
Police had used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters attempting to disrupt preparations for the February 2 election. Protesters themselves used slingshots and threw rocks, according to reports, but the death of the police officer is sure to further inflame an already heated situation in Thailand.
"He was shot in his chest and brought to hospital by helicopter," Jongjet Aoajenpong, director of the Police General Hospital, said on Thursday. "A team of doctors tried to resuscitate him for more than half an hour."
The death has prompted Thailand's Election Commission to urge the government to delay the elections.
A crowd of around 500 had gathered outside a sports stadium where political parties were registering for the elections. Protestors reportedly used a truck to smash through the gates of the stadium.
Before the news of the policeman's death broke, 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)