Thai anti-Government protests renew fears of bloodshed

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Anti-government protesters took over key intersections in Thailand’s capital yesterday, halting much of the traffic into Bangkok’s central business district.

It was part of a months-long campaign to thwart elections and overthrow the democratically elected prime minister.

The intensified protests, which could last weeks or more, were peaceful and life continued normally in much of the capital.

But they raise the stakes in a long-running crisis that has killed at least eight people in the last two months and fuelled fears of more bloodshed to come and a possible army coup. In a speech, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, left, repeated a vow that neither he nor his supporters will negotiate.

“In this fight, defeat is defeat and victory is victory. There is no tie,” he said.

Overnight, an unidentified gunman opened fire on protesters camped near a vast government complex, shooting one man in the neck who was admitted to a nearby hospital. The drive-by was the third of its kind since January 6.

In a separate incident early today, a gunman fired about 10 shots at the headquarters of the opposition Democrat Party, shattering several windows but causing no casualties.

The protesters are demanding that prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration be replaced by a non-elected “people’s council” to end alleged corruption. Critics say it is part of a power struggle aimed at bringing the nation’s fragile democracy to a halt by urban elites and former supporters of military regimes frustrated by their inability to win enough votes in rural Thailand to form a Government.

Candlelight vigils have been held to counter the shut down and urge the February 2 election to be held on schedule.