BANGKOK- Thai police fired tear gas and rubber bullets Thursday as clashes broke out with protesters trying to prevent political parties registering for elections, leaving dozens wounded and forcing officials to flee by helicopter.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced weeks of mass street rallies seeking to curb her family's political dominance and install an unelected "people's council" to oversee electoral reforms.
Fresh violence erupted as demonstrators tried to force their way into a sports stadium in the capital where representatives of about 30 political parties were gathered for the registration process for February 2 elections.
Thirty-two people were hospitalised, including one protester who was in a serious condition with an apparent gunshot wound to his head, a senior official at the public health ministry, Supan Srithamma, told AFP.
"It's likely that he was shot by a live bullet," he said.
Police said three of their officers were wounded including one who was struck by a bullet in his arm.
Security forces denied firing live rounds, saying only rubber bullets and tear gas were used against the demonstrators.
"Protesters are not peaceful and unarmed as they claimed," deputy prime minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in a televised address.
"They are intimidating officials and trespassing in government buildings."
Several election commissioners were airlifted from the stadium by helicopter while other officials, party representatives and journalists were trapped inside.
Thailand has seen several bouts of political turmoil since Yingluck's older brother Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted as premier in a military coup in 2006.