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Several injured after shots are fired at anti-government protesters in Bangkok

At least seven people have been injured after gunmen opened fire on anti-government protesters in Bangkok. This has raised fears of violence ahead of a planned 'shutdown' of the capital.

Thai police on Saturday said it wasn't clear who was behind the shooting, but that most of those wounded were demonstrators.

"The first attack occurred at 2.30 am (local time), wounding two people, including a protest security guard. The second took place a few hours later, wounding five protesters," Police Lieutenant General Prawut Thavornsiri said.

These incidents followed clashes between anti- and pro-government demonstrators outside of Bangkok on Friday, which left at least six people injured.

They also come ahead of a planned "shutdown" of the Thai capital during which the anti-government side, led by former opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban, has pledged to paralyze Bangkok for a period of two to three weeks, beginning on Monday.

Among other things, they are planning to stage blockades at main intersections in an effort to bring business in the capital to a halt.

This is to be the latest in a series of actions aimed at forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Sinawatra to step down immediately.

Yingluck, whom the protesters accuse of acting as a proxy for her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra, has called a snap election for February 2 in a bid to defuse the ongoing political crisis, but she remains on a caretaker basis.

This has not satisfied the opposition, who not only want her to resign, but also demand the establishment of a loosely-defined "people's council" to implement political reforms.

Coup fears

The political impasse has raised fears that the military could soon step in, although the government has also played down the possibility.

Thailand has experienced a total of 18 successful or attempted coups since 1932. It has also gone through a series of bouts of turmoil since the army ousted Thaksin Sinawatra in 2006. He has been living in exile since fleeing the country in 2008 to avoid serving time for a corruption conviction that he says was politically motivated.

The latest unrest was sparked by an attempt by his sister's government last November to pass legislation that would have granted him an amnesty, paving the way for his possible return.

pfd/tj (Reuters, AFP)

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