BANGKOK — Gunmen killed one person and wounded four others in an attack Tuesday on anti-government protesters, in the latest violence in Thailand’s long political crisis, authorities said.
The shots were fired at a bus and a flatbed truck carrying demonstrators to their camp in central Bangkok after they had protested at a government office complex just north of the city.
Erawan emergency services said three men and two women were shot and one of the men had died. Ramathibodi Hospital said 52-year-old Wasan Kamwong died from severe injuries to his head.
The incident underlined the continuing potential for violence in the country’s ongoing political crisis. Supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, fearful that she may be forced out of office by legal maneuvering, are threatening to take to the streets, opening up the possibility of clashes with anti-government demonstrators. The pro-government “Red Shirts” have announced they will hold a major rally this Saturday in a province just west of Bangkok.
Since November, Yingluck’s opponents have been staging aggressive protests in Bangkok, temporarily blockading and occupying government offices, interfering with registration and voting in a general election in February, and clashing fiercely with police on several occasions.
Protest-related violence has left 24 dead and hundreds hurt since November, with police among the victims.
The women shot Tuesday were on a bus and the men were guards for the protesters who were on a sound truck, said Nasser Yeemah, who heads the guards for the Student and People’s Network for the Reform of Thailand protest group. He said he suspected the shots were fired from a tall building at the side of the expressway where the vehicles were traveling.
The student network is a militant faction of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, which has been seeking to have Yingluck resign to make way for an interim appointed government to initiate reforms that would ban her family from politics.
Police Maj. Gen. Anucha Romyanan confirmed the circumstances of the shooting and said it was not immediately known what type of weapon was used.
While there has been a lull in deadly violence in recent weeks, there has been a series of nighttime grenade attacks by unknown parties on anti-government targets.
Thailand has seen sometimes-violent political conflict since 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s billionaire brother, was removed in a military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have since taken to the streets for extended periods in a struggle for power.
Yingluck faces several court cases which could force her out. The courts and independent state agencies are widely seen as being biased against Thaksin’s political machine, and there are fears her supporters could return to the streets if they feel she is facing a “judicial coup.”
She is a caretaker prime minister, having called early elections as a way of affirming her mandate after the protests against her began. However, the February polls were annulled last week by the Constitutional Court and no date has been set for a new election. Several other legal cases are pending against members of her party that could make it impossible for her to form a government.
Yingluck’s opponents hope that a failure to form a new government will spark a constitutional crisis, allowing them to invoke vaguely defined clauses in the charter and have an unelected prime minister installed.
Yingluck on Monday defended herself against charges of dereliction of duty in overseeing a contentious rice subsidy program, in a case under consideration by the National Anti-Corruption Commission that could lead to a suspension of her duties and eventual impeachment by the Senate.
On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court will decide whether to consider a petition from a group of anti-Yingluck senators asking for a ruling on whether she violated the constitution by transferring her National Security Council chief to another position. Another court already ordered him restored to his job.