Thai protests turn ugly, gunshots fired

Thai protests turn ugly, gunshots fired

BANGKOK - Gunshots were fired in eastern Bangkok on Saturday night as the Thai capital braced itself for an escalation of protests on Sunday aimed at toppling the government of Ms Yingluck Shinawatra.

About 45,000 policemen are now guarding various government offices. The Prime Minister on Saturday deployed reinforcements from the military to protect the buildings.

The shooting occurred in Ramkhamhaeng district, where tens of thousands of "red shirt" supporters of the government had been rallying in a stadium to oppose intensifying anti-government protests in the capital.

At least two people were injured, according to emergency officials interviewed by Agence France-Presse.

Earlier in the day, an anti-government mob attacked people and vehicles which they thought were carrying red shirt supporters. The protesters beat up two men on a motorcycle and smashed the windscreen of a taxi as well as windows on a bus.

During the red shirt rally last night, witnesses also reported hostile groups gathering outside the stadium.

The clashes marked the most serious escalation of violence since the anti-government protests erupted one month ago in response to the ruling Puea Thai party's attempt to push through a Bill that would grant amnesty to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck's brother who was deposed in a 2006 coup.

The amnesty plan was ditched. Since last week, protest leaders have turned their attention to toppling the government.

The movement is led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who quit his post as opposition Democrat member of parliament last month to focus on the campaign.

Last Friday night, he told protesters to take over key government installations such as Government House - where the Prime Minister's office is located - as well as the police headquarters and labour, education, foreign and commerce ministries.

On Saturday, the protesters readied for their invasion of Government House by toppling concrete barriers and dumping sandbags on barbed wire put up to keep them out of prohibited zones.

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