Government supporters, protesters clash in Thailand

Bangkok, Feb 1: At least six people were injured Saturday in clashes between government supporters and protesters led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee here in the Thailand capital, a day ahead of the elections.

The clashes began in the afternoon when the sound of a bomb blast was heard. An hour later, witnesses said they heard gunshots, which continued for nearly 30 minutes, the Bangkok Post reported.

The clashes broke out near the Lak Si district office in Bangkok, where ballot boxes and papers are being stored for polling stations in constituency 11.

The protesters wanted the political system to be reformed before the elections and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. They have been taking to the streets and occupying government offices since November 2013.

The Erawan Medical Centre said six injured people – four men and two women – have been admitted.

The clashes erupted after rival groups took up positions just 500 metres apart from the Lak Si intersection.

On the other side, around 200 Red Shirt supporters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship gathered at the Lak Si temple, just 500 metres from the district office.

The anti-government protesters surrounded the district office Friday to stop it from being used as a polling station.

A total of 130,000 police personnel will be deployed at polling stations nationwide to maintain law and order during the elections, according to the director of the centre for maintaining peace and order.

Thai caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and other cabinet ministers will be provided extra security when they go to vote.

The move came amid rising concerns about possible clashes and violence between government supporters and protesters who might stage a mass rally Feb 2 to block people from casting their votes.

Ballot boxes and papers have also not reached election offices in many areas due to a blockade by the protesters.

The opposition has said it would not obstruct voting but some of its followers disrupted advance polling and forced the closure of many polling stations last Sunday.