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article imageThai protesters defy emergency law — Pro-government activist shot

By Alessio Fratticcioli     Jan 22, 2014 in World
Bangkok - Thai anti-government protesters today paraded through the capital city Bangkok, defying the state of emergency imposed by the government on Tuesday.
Protesters marched to the headquarters of the Royal Thai Police, where they besieged and vandalized the building. The emergency law in principle bans political demonstrations.
Meanwhile, in the Northeastern town of Udon Thani, a stronghold of the ruling Pheu Thai party, a leading pro-government activist was shot and wounded in a drive-by shooting.
Mr. Kwanchai Praipana, leader of the city′s chapter of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), was wounded by gunshots in his arm and leg in an apparent assassination attempt, Thai newspaper Khaosod reported.
Mr. Kwanchai is considered a "radical" member of the pro-government UDD, whose supporters are commonly called Red Shirts. He has recently proposed a reward for the arrest of anti-government leader Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, Thai PBS reported.
Mr. Suthep, a former executive in the conservative "Democrat Party," leads the ongoing anti-government protests.
The protesters took the streets in November against a controversial amnesty bill, which the parliament eventually aborted. Following this relative success, protesters began demanding the government to step down, showing what the real issue at stake was.
Thailand's prime minister, Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, responded by dissolving the parliament and calling a fresh election, which is set to take place on February 2. The move did not ease the crisis, as the protesters did not disperse and the opposition "Democrat Party" announced it would boycott the vote.
After a series of attacks with explosives and firearms on the anti-government protesters blockading central Bangkok for which each side has blamed on the other, Thai authorities imposed the emergency rule in Bangkok and the surrounding areas to prevent a further escalation. The emergency law gives security agencies wide-ranging powers to ban political gatherings, censor media and detain persons. The measure took effect Wednesday and will continue for 60 days.
"The cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the situation and to enforce the law," Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.
Protest leader Mr. Suthep vowed to defy all orders issued under the emergency decree.
Mr. Suthep, who believes his group has the backing of the powerful Royal Thai Army, urges caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down and demands the country abandon its electoral system in favor of an unelected and ill-defined "People’s Council."
Mr. Suthep's supporters continue to block parts of the capital in an attempt to paralyze the city and disrupt the approaching election. The government so far has been reluctant to deploy police on the streets for fear of stoking unrest or provoking a military intervention.
The Kingdom of Thailand has a long tradition of military coup d'état. Thailand's Army has staged 18 coups or attempted coups in less than 80 years. The last, in 2006, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, brother of current premier Yingluck.
The day before being shot, Mr. Kwanchai told Reuters that if the military attempted a coup: "I can assure you, on behalf of the 20 provinces in the northeast, that we will fight. The country will be set alight if the soldiers come out."
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