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Red Shirt leader shot as state of emergency starts in Bangkok

A leader of the pro-government "Red Shirt" movement in Thailand has been wounded after being shot by an unknown assailant. This comes as a government-implemented state of emergency comes into effect in Bangkok.

Kwanchai Praipana, a radio host and leading figure in Thailand's Red Shirt movement, has been shot in the knee and shoulder on Wednesday.

"It's likely that the motive for the shooting is political," Police Colonel Kowit Charoenwattanasak told the AFP news agency in a phone interview.

Praipana was fired upon at his home in the northeastern town of Udon Thani in a drive-by shooting. He leads a group of several thousand strong in the area, who support the government and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

State of emergency begins

The incident came at the beginning of a 60-day state of emergency that has been imposed by the government in the capital, Bangkok, in an effort to curb protests against Yingluck and her government.

The decree, which was announced Tuesday, gives security forces additional powers to detain suspects, limit gatherings and enforce a curfew. So far, there are no plans to actually implement these measures, which the government said on Wednesday was by design.

"The decree is meant to be a deterrent," Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuanggetkeow told reporters. "In no way should there be the use of force, and utmost restraint will be the order of the day."

Protesters continue to block off parts of Bangkok.

Yingluck has called for elections on February 2, which opposition parties are planning to boycott. They call for Yingluck to step down, believing she is too closely connected to her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the country's former prime minister who was removed in a coup in 2006. He lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid a jail term in Thailand for corruption.

mz/hc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)