Thai PM safely leaves police complex stormed by protesters

Thai PM safely leaves police complex stormed by protesters

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Hundreds of protesters seeking to overthrow Thailand's government stormed a police compound on Sunday where the prime minister had been during the morning, forcing her to leave hastily for an undisclosed location, a government official said.

Police fired several rounds of teargas in an area of Bangkok near Government House, after a chaotic night of street fighting elsewhere in the capital during which two people were killed and at least 45 wounded.

As the Thai capital braced for what protest leaders are calling "V-Day" for toppling the government, thousands gathered at several points across the city, wearing black, waving flags and blowing whistles.

A "red shirt" government supporter was shot and killed early on Sunday, a day after a 21-year-old student was also fatally shot, as protesters intensified a week-long bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and end her family's more than decade-long influence over Thai politics.

Police called in military back-up to protect government buildings after the clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of Yingluck and her billionaire brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, near a sports stadium where about 70,000 government supporters had gathered.

The fighting is the latest in an intractable conflict that broadly pits Thailand's establishment of royalists, wealthy elites and the urban middle class against the poor supporters of Thaksin, who come mostly from provinces north of Bangkok, the country's lowest-income regions.

Protest leaders have told supporters to seize 10 government offices, six television stations, police headquarters and Government House, where Yingluck's office is.

The headquarters of state broadcaster Thai PBS were taken over by protesters, according to a statement from PBS and police, and at least 3,000 protesters massed in front of the police headquarters, a Reuters reporter said.

Five major shopping malls were shut as a precaution.

Streets near the stadium, the scene of intense street battles overnight, were littered with broken glass and rocks, a Reuters witness said. A red-shirt leader, Jatuporn Promphan, said four red shirts had been killed but Reuters only confirmed one, 43-year-old red-shirt guard Viroj Kemnak.

Forty-five people were wounded in the fighting, according to the government's Erawan emergency centre.

Thousands of red shirts began to return by bus to their homes in northern Thailand after their rally was called off in a bid to calm the tension but that is unlikely to end Thailand's worst political crisis since April-May 2010, a period of unrest that ended with a military crackdown.

In all, 91 people were killed then, mostly Thaksin supporters.

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