Two killed as Thai caretaker government presses on with election discussion

Anti-government protesters gather at the site of an attack at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on May 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Anti-government protesters gather at the site of an attack at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on May 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - Two anti-government protesters in Bangkok were killed in a pre-dawn attack on Thursday as opposing sides in Thailand's six-month long political conflict stood no closer to resolution.

According to the Erawan Emergency Centre, 24 people were also injured as attackers lobbed grenades and began shooting at the protesters camped out near the Democracy Monument to demand the removal of the Puea Thai party-led caretaker government.

It is not clear who are behind the attacks, as both pro- and anti-government supporters are known to have armed militants in their midst.

At least 27 people have died since the unrest flared up in late November, when protesters took to the streets to oust the government and proceeded to sabotage the Feb 2 election which the ruling Puea Thai party was poised to win. The poll was eventually annulled by the Constitutional Court.

The caretaker government is meeting the election commission this morning to discuss how to hold another general election on July 20, which protesters have vowed to disrupt again.

The unrest is part of an eight-year-old conflict between supporters and opponents of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 but continues to hold sway over the country through his political parties and allies.

Anti-government protesters supported by the royalist elites and urban middle class insist that Thailand no longer has a prime minister after then caretaker premier Yingluck Shinawatra - Thaksin's sister - was expelled by the charter court last week over the illegal transfer of a senior official in 2011. They demand that the country's Upper House appoint an interim government instead.

Acting caretaker prime minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, who was appointed last Wednesday to take over Ms Yingluck, maintains that he is in charge until the next election. But he has indicated he was open to all lawful proposals to resolve the crisis.

Thailand's senators, meanwhile, have been meeting various groups of people in parliament, including anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, to try to chart a "road map" out of the conflict.

They have not, however, met leaders of the most prominent pro-government group, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), which is rallying on the outskirts of Bangkok. The UDD, or red shirts, have threatened to escalate their protest if an interim prime minister is appointed.