Thai polls in doubt as attack kills 3 protesters

Thai polls in doubt as attack kills 3 protesters

BANGKOK - Thailand's election authority called Thursday for July polls to be postponed after three people were killed in a grenade and gun attack on opposition protesters in Bangkok, stoking fears of spiralling violence.

The latest wave of bloodshed comes as demonstrators push for the appointment of an unelected premier in a move that has infuriated government supporters.

The dismissal of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office last week in a controversial court ruling has sent tensions soaring in the Southeast Asian nation, which has endured years of political turmoil.

Her "Red Shirt" supporters have warned of the threat of civil war if power is handed to an unelected leader.

Unknown assailants fired two grenades into a rally camp early Thursday at the Democracy Monument - a stone's throw from the city's famed backpacker zone - followed by a burst of gunshots, police said.

Bangkok's Erawan Emergency Centre said three people were killed and 23 wounded.

Hours later opposition demonstrators stormed a meeting between the government and vote officials, forcing caretaker Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and other ministers to flee.

"The election on July 20 is no longer possible. It must be postponed," Election Commission secretary general Puchong Nutrawong told AFP after the talks ended in chaos.

He said early August was one option for the polls but "may be too soon".

"The election cannot be held if protesters do not agree," Puchong added.

The deaths take the toll from six months of protests aimed at toppling the government to 28, with hundreds of others wounded in gun and grenade attacks mostly targeting opposition protesters.

There were no immediate reports of the identity of the gunmen behind Thursday's bloodshed, but both pro- and anti-government supporters are known to have armed hardliners and have blamed each other for previous violence.

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