Rocks, tear gas fly as Thai protesters clash with police in Bangkok

Rocks, tear gas fly as Thai protesters clash with police in Bangkok
Anti-government protesters clash with riot police at the gate of the gymnasium where candidates are due to register for the upcoming elections during a rally at the Thai-Japan youth stadium in Bangkok December 25, 2013.

BANGKOK - Thai police fired teargas at anti-government protesters in the capital Bangkok on Thursday after demonstrators tried to disrupt planning for a February election, the first such incident in nearly two weeks.

While only a small confrontation between police and protesters angry with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the incident came a day after the government extended a special security law for another two months.

Yingluck remains caretaker prime minister after calling a snap election for Feb. 2 in an attempt to deflate weeks of mainly peaceful protests that, at their peak, have drawn 200,000 people onto the streets of Bangkok.

The protesters draw their strength from Bangkok's middle class and elite who dismiss Yingluck as a puppet of her self-exiled elder brother, former premier and telecommunications billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin and Yingluck have their power base in the rural north and northeast. Their opponents accuse Thaksin of manipulating the poor in those areas with populist policies such as cheap healthcare and easy credit.

About 500 protesters gathered outside a Bangkok gymnasium early on Thursday where Thailand's Election Commission is working through the process of registering candidates for the February election.

Thai media reported that representatives of a number of parties planning to contest the election were inside the building at the time. Calls by Reuters reporters to officials inside could not be connected.

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