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Thai Protest Leader Suthin Tharathin Shot Dead in Bangkok

January 26, 2014 by Brett Wilkins in Asia/Pacific, Protests with 0 Comments

A popular Thai anti-government protest leader was shot dead in Bangkok on Sunday as demonstrators stopped voters from entering polling stations in the capital.

CNN reports Suthin Tharathin, leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), was shot in front of Sri Eiam temple in Bangkok, according to Police Col. Thawatkiat Jindakuansanong. Medical officials said nine other people were shot during the incident.

Tharathin was standing atop a truck and addressing demonstrators when he was shot. He was taken to a local hospital, where he later died. Jindakuansanong said that he could not confirm the identity of the shooter or shooters, but that pro- and anti-government demonstrators had exchanged insults and ‘verbal assaults’ at the time of the incident.

BBC reports protesters have surrounded polling stations, thwarting potential voters from casting early ballots for next week’s general election.

Demonstrators have been calling on democratically-elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign so her administration can be replaced by an unelected ‘people’s council,’ which would preside over political and electoral changes in the southeast Asian nation of 67 million inhabitants. Many claim that Yingluck’s government is being influenced by her brother, ousted and exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Protesters successfully blocked or shut down 49 of 50 polling stations in the capital, BBC reports. Early voting was also disrupted in 10 of the nation’s 76 provinces.

The Thai government declared a state of emergency last week, granting controversial powers to security forces to quell demonstrations, including the power to impose curfews, censor the media and detain suspects without charge.

On Friday, Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled that elections scheduled for February 2 can be postponed, but Yingluck’s ruling party, the populist Pheu Thai, remains staunchly committed to holding elections as scheduled, despite the protests.

Many Thais expressed outrage over the disruption of the democratic process.

“I consider myself a very tolerant person, but this is very unfair,” Pruettha Jampathong, a 30-year-old human resources manager, told the New York Times. “They (the protesters) violated my political rights.”

Protest leaders claim they are not stopping people from voting but rather protesting early voting.

Tharathin’s death comes just days after prominent local ‘red shirt’ activist Kwanchai Praipana was shot and wounded outside his home in Udon Thani province in northeastern Thailand.

At least nine people have been killed since the current wave of protests began last year.

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