Bangkok under emergency as pro-government leader is wounded


A leading pro-government activist was shot and wounded on Wednesday 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 north-eastern town of Udon Thani.
Police said they believed it was politically motivated.
Kwanchai Praipana leads thousands of pro-government supporters in Udon Thani province.
On Tuesday, he told a foreign news agency that if the military attempted a coup: “I can assure you that, on behalf of the 20 provinces in the northeast,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.
Nine people have died and dozens have been wounded in violence, including two grenade attacks in the capital over the weekend, since protesters took to the streets in November to demand Yingluck step down and a “people’s council” be set up to bring sweeping reforms to Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.