Two people were wounded in a shooting at a Thai anti-government rally Wednesday while a small blast shook a house owned by the opposition leader’s family, raising tensions in the capital after weeks of mass street protests.
Defiant demonstrators vowed to keep up their efforts to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office with their self-styled “Bangkok shutdown”, which involves occupying key intersections in the city.
“The two incidents are a signal that the people’s revolution has almost succeeded,” rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters as he led a march through upscale neighbourhoods of Bangkok.
He accused the government of orchestrating the attacks.
A man and a woman were taken to hospital with minor wounds after shots were fired shortly after midnight on the fringes of the protesters’ main base in the capital’s commercial heart, according to the city’s Erawan emergency centre.
Both were discharged overnight. Local reports said they were a garbage man and a protester. Television footage showed dozens of shots fired by unknown gunmen.
Armed provocateurs have a history of trying to stir tensions in the politically polarised kingdom, and several people — including a policeman — have been killed by unidentified assailants since the protests began more than two months ago.
Late on Tuesday a makeshift explosive device — either a small bomb or a firecracker — was hurled at a house belonging to the family of opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is also a former prime minister, but nobody was injured, according to police.
“The house belongs to Abhisit’s father but no one has lived there for a long time,” said Police Colonel Chumpol Pumpuong.
Abhisit — who faces a murder charge for a deadly military crackdown on opposition protests when he was premier in 2010 — and his Democrat Party are boycotting elections called by Yingluck for Feb 2.
The protesters, backed by the kingdom’s royalist establishment, want Yingluck to resign to make way for an unelected “people’s council” that would oversee reforms to curb the political dominance of her billionaire brother Thaksin.
Yingluck hosted a seminar Wednesday to discuss the Election Commission’s proposal to postpone the election but the opposition refused to attend.
Protest leader Suthep threatened Tuesday to take the prime minister and several cabinet ministers captive if they do not resign.
The former Democrat lawmaker is renowned for his blustery rhetoric, but the threat reflects an air of impunity surrounding rally leaders who have not been detained despite warrants for their arrest.
He was greeted by crowds of supporters — many of whom handed over fistfuls of banknotes to help fund the rally — during his march through wealthy residential areas of Bangkok on Wednesday.
Protesters blocked key intersections in the capital for a third straight day Wednesday, but there was more traffic on the roads, in a possible sign that the attempted “shutdown” was losing momentum.
The main protest movement has distanced itself from a threat by a hardcore anti-government faction to seize air traffic control or the Thai stock exchange.
The rallies were triggered by a failed amnesty bill that could have allowed Thaksin to return despite a jail term for a past corruption conviction.
The tycoon-turned-politician has strong electoral support in northern Thailand, but he is reviled by many southerners, Bangkok’s middle class and members of the royalist establishment.