In a separate part of an army complex in Bangkok where Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was meeting Election Commission
officials, shots were fired in a group of anti-government
protesters. Two people were injured.
"We have to go forward with the election. The Election Commission
will organize the election under the framework of the constitution
and try to avoid any violence," Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep
Thepkanchana told a news conference.
Yingluck had called the snap election in the hope of confirming her
hold on power and putting an end to the protests in the capital
which began in November in an attempt to force her from office.
The protests are the latest eruption in a political conflict that
has gripped Thailand for eight years and which is starting to hurt
growth and investor confidence in Southeast Asia's second-largest
The conflict broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist
establishment against the mainly poor, rural backers of Yingluck and
her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The protesters have rejected the election, which Yingluck's ruling
party looks set to win, and prevented advance voting in many parts
of Bangkok and the south on Sunday.
The Commission has been pressing for a delay in the election because
of the unrest and wants it delayed by up to four months.
Ten people have been killed since the protests began and hundreds
have been wounded.
The latest shooting was where about 500 anti-government protesters
had gathered at the Army Club compound in Bangkok where Yingluck
held a cabinet meeting before meeting the Election Commission. The
shooting took place far from that meeting.
"Someone fired shots. One protester was hurt and the man who fired
the shots was hurt too. They have been sent to different hospitals,"
Chumpol Jumsai, a protest leader who was at the facility in north
Bangkok, told Reuters.
The protesters want to suspend what they say is a fragile democracy
destabilized by former telecoms tycoon Thaksin, whom they accuse of
nepotism and corruption. They want to eradicate the political
influence of his family by altering electoral arrangements in ways
they have not spelt out.
"CHAOS WILL ENSUE"
The Election Commission has argued that the country is too unsettled
to hold an election now. It also points out that candidates have
been unable to register in some constituencies, meaning there would
not be a quorum to open parliament even if voting went ahead.
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"We believe chaos will ensue ... Our new recommendation is to hold
elections within three or four months," Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a
member of the Election Commission, told reporters as he went into
As the protest movement drags on into its third month, the
government has issued an ultimatum to leaders that they face arrest
by Thursday if they do not give up areas of Bangkok they have taken
The government has declared a state of emergency in the capital and
Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobumrung, in charge of enforcing the
decree, said an arrest warrant would be sought against protest
leader Suthep Thaugsuban and others on Tuesday.
"If the court issues arrest warrants for the protest leaders at 3
p.m. today, we will start capturing them. Suthep has refused to
negotiate with us so we don't know what else to do," Chalerm told
The government declared the emergency last week but it has shown no
sign of using its powers, nor did authorities move to arrest Suthep
after earlier arrest warrants were issued.
Suthep has said in return that his supporters would shut down the
emergency agency headed by Chalerm within 24 hours.
There are widespread fears that violence could escalate in the
increasingly divisive dispute and that the army might step in. It
has staged or attempted 18 coups in 80 years of on-off democracy but
has tried to remain neutral this time.
Yingluck is Thailand's fifth prime minister since the populist
Thaksin was toppled by the army in 2006 and went into exile two
years later to escape a jail sentence that was handed down for abuse
(Writing by Jonathan Thatcher and Alan Raybould;
editing by Robert Birsel)
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