Gunmen open fire on protests in Bangkok



A Thai pro-election activist shouts slogans in Laksi district of Bangkok on Feb. 1, 2014.


Nicolas Asfouri

Thailand’s election officials have warned they will close polling stations should violence erupt during Sunday’s general election, a near certainty given events in the leadup to polls. 

In northern Bangkok on Saturday, at least six people were wounded by explosions and gunshots close to a standoff between supporters and opponents of Thailand's government. 

AFP reported that a man pulled an assault rifle from a bag and began spraying bullets during a protest.

Elsewhere in Bangkok, anti-government demonstrators continued blockading streets, and threatened to disrupt the election while police and the armed forces prepared to safeguard the process.

Past practice suggests bloodshed is inevitable come voting day.

“We’re focusing our security efforts in Bangkok and in the south,” Election Commission Chief Puchong Nutrawong told Reuters. “I’ve asked commission officials to call polling venues in southern Thailand today to ensure we are as prepared as we can be.”

As GlobalPost reported from Bangkok this week, demonstrators locked gates leading to polling stations while others formed human barriers outside the advance polls.

One election worker was killed as he tried to shut down a polling station last week. Voters were harassed or jeered.

Demonstrators accuse Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Puea Thai Party of corruption, and want to replace the government with an unelected People’s Democratic Reform Committee that will clean up Thailand, and then hold new elections “within a year.”

More from GlobalPost: 6 things you need to know about Bangkok’s uprising

The last general election was held in 2011, and the Puea Thai Party won 265 seats with 48 percent of the vote.

The opposition Democrat Party — which promised to boycott Sunday’s vote — earned 159 seats on 35 percent of the vote, with three-quarters of Thais casting a ballot.

The armed forces and police are coordinating with Election Commission to ensure a vote free of violence, but that only has some officials bracing for further clashes.

Since demonstrations flared in November, 10 people have died and hundreds have been hurt, Reuters reported

Thailand is split between a middle class opposed to the prime minister, and poorer, rural voters backing Yingluck. She called the election in an effort to restore calm.

This latest conflict has roots in a 2006 military coup that overthrew Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was convicted on corruption charges.

He remain in exile overseas, splitting his time between Dubai and London.

The most recent protests were sparked when the government tried to pass an amnesty bill for those involved in violent 2010 clashes connected to the Thaksin coup.

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