Political violence shakes Thai capital

Political violence shakes Thai capital

BANGKOK - Political violence in the Thai capital has left two people dead and dozens wounded, officials said Sunday, as opposition demonstrators vowed a final push to overthrow embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The bloodshed is the latest in a series of outbreaks of civil strife in the kingdom since royalist generals ousted billionaire tycoon-turned-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, seven years ago.

The mass street rallies, aimed at replacing Yingluck's government with an unelected "people's council", are the biggest since political violence in Bangkok three years ago left dozens dead in a military crackdown.

Tensions were high after violence broke out late Saturday in the area around a suburban stadium where tens of thousands of pro-government "Red Shirts" had gathered in support of Yingluck's government, which has faced weeks of street protests.

The dead and injured suffered a range of wounds including gunshots and stabbings. The circumstances were unclear but the violence came after an anti-government mob attacked Red Shirts arriving to join the rally in Ramkhamhaeng district.

"The confirmed toll is now two dead and 45 injured," an official at the city's Erawan emergency centre told AFP, amid reports of sporadic outbreaks of violence near the stadium on Sunday morning.

They were the first deaths since the mostly peaceful demonstrations began a month ago. Both sides blamed each other for attacking their supporters.

The violence prompted Red Shirt leaders to end their rally, which had drawn tens of thousands of mainly rural poor in support of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile but remains a hugely divisive figure in Thailand.

"In order to avoid further complicating the situation for the government, we have decided to let people return home," Red Shirt leader Thida Thavornseth told the crowd.

The stadium emptied quickly and the area appeared calm by mid morning, according to an AFP photographer.

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