Clashes among protesters in Thailand’s capital have led to the death of at least one person amid mass rallies by opponents of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as well as by supporters of her government.
Reuters says the person was shot dead and that 10 others were wounded in the first bloodshed in a week of protests aimed at toppling Yingluck, whose government won overwhelmingly in 2011 elections.
In other violence, Reuters reports,
“Anti-government protesters attacked a bus they believed was full of government ‘red shirt’ supporters. They also smashed the windshield of a taxi carrying people wearing red shirts, a pro-government symbol, and beat two people, one unconscious, police and Reuters witnesses said.
“As darkness fell gunfire erupted outside a sports stadium in Bangkok’s Ramkamhaeng area, where about 70,000 red-shirted supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had gathered for a rally.
“A gunman fired into Ramkamhaeng University, where hundreds of anti-government protesters had retreated after trying to block people from entering the stadium, witnesses said.”
Since becoming prime minister in 2011, Yingluck has been a favorite target of anti-government “yellow shirt” protesters, who claim to have the backing of Thailand’s revered king. The yellow shirts are made up mostly of wealthier Thais from the central regions, while Yingluck and her brother’s “red shirt” base is drawn primarily from the poorer rice-growing region of the northeast.
The latest round of anti-government protests, led by a former minister in the government that Yingluck replaced, began with the ruling party’s introduction of an amnesty bill that would have forgiven former government leaders accused of ordering police to fire on red shirt protesters three years ago, but also would have allowed billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand despite charges of corruption against him.
The mass rallies have only widened the divisions in Thailand, where rapidly rising standards of living in the major cities such as Bangkok leave rural areas behind. The problem is exacerbated by uneasiness about the succession of the aging king, whom many credit with bringing a degree of stability to the country’s otherwise turbulent political scene.
The Thai monarch turns 87 on Thursday and his birthday is usually honored with reserve in the country, so many fear the yellow shirts will try to bring events to a boil between now and then.