Thai pro-government activist shot at in PM’s stronghold

January 23, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
UDON THANI:  A leading pro-government activist was shot and wounded yesterday in Thailand’s northeast, a stronghold of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as a state of emergency began in the capital where protesters are trying to force her from power.

The government issued the 60-day emergency decree late on Tuesday, handing security agencies wide powers to detain suspects, impose a curfew and limit gatherings in and around Bangkok. 

Officials said it was aimed at preventing an escalation of the protests that have gripped the capital for more than two months and brought parts of the centre to a halt.  Bangkok appeared normal and people went about their business as usual. 

Police did not try to break up the protests, including one outside a complex where Yingluck was working. But highlighting the risk of the political deadlock turning violent, “red shirt” leader Kwanchai Praipana, who had warned of a nationwide “fight” if the military launched a coup, was wounded in the arm and leg in a drive-by shooting at his home in the northeastern town of Udon Thani.

“From the way the assailants fired, they obviously didn’t want him to live,” his wife, Arporn Sarakham, said. 

Kwanchai Praipana leads thousands of pro-government supporters in Udon Thani province.

On Tuesday, he said 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.”

So far the military, which has been involved in 18 actual or attempted coups in the past 81 years, has kept out of the fray. The police are charged with imposing the state of emergency, under orders from Yingluck to treat protesters against her government with patience.

Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, said the emergency decree was designed largely to give Yingluck legal protection if there is violence and the police step in.