Thai election campaign hit by violence
A Thai opposition lawmaker has been wounded in a drive-by shooting near Bangkok. The attack has been denounced as the first election-related violence as the country gears up for tense national polls.
A Thai opposition lawmaker was wounded in a drive-by shooting near Bangkok, an attack denounced Wednesday as the first election-related violence as the country gears up for tense national polls.
The Tuesday evening attack came a day after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolved the lower house of Parliament to hold early elections on July 3. The snap polls open a new front in the political battle between supporters of Abhisit and those of populist former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 military coup.
The wounded lawmaker, Pracha Prasobdee, represented the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai Party in the lower house of Parliament. He was shot in the back and shoulders by at least one gunman on the back of a motorbike while he was driving his car in Samut Prakan, outside the capital, party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said.
"As soon as the lower house is dissolved, they start shooting politicians," Prompong said. "We suspect a political link here."
Abhisit visited the lawmaker Wednesday at a hospital where he was being treated for the bullet wounds.
Last year, "Red Shirt" protesters, a grouping of anti-government protesters largely loyal to Thaksin, occupied much of Bangkok's downtown commercial districts in two months of demonstrations. The protests, which demanded Abhisit call early elections, ended with a military crackdown and violent street battles that killed at least 91 people and wounded 1,400.
The demonstrations marked the latest phase of instability in Thailand, which has been gripped by political unrest since Thaksin's 2006 ouster. Thaksin is now in self-imposed exile overseas but continues to rally and fund his supporters.
Puea Thai's pro-Thaksin predecessor, the People's Power Party, won the most seats in the last elections in 2007 and formed a government that ruled for about a year. But controversial court rulings ordered the PPP dissolved, and militant anti-Thaksin demonstrations helped Abhisit's Democrats woo enough lawmakers to form a new ruling coalition and take power.
Polls suggest that Puea Thai, made up mostly of former PPP lawmakers, will win the most seats in upcoming polls, but probably not a majority. Few expect that elections will solve Thailand's political problems and many fear renewed violence during the campaign period.