Thai 'Red Shirt' Leader Shot as Political Protests Escalate

Political divide in Thailand grows after a notable political activist is shot and wounded.

Anti-government protesters wave national flags as they block the street in front of the Office of the Defence Permanent Secretary during a rally in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 22, 2014.
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Pro-government "red shirt" leader Kwanchai Praipana was shot outside of his home in northeastern Thailand Wednesday. The attack comes a day after Thailand's government declared a state of emergency, due to escalation of violence during protests.

"From what we saw on CCTV, a bronze pickup truck drove by and several rounds were fired at the house," Police Colonel Kowit Tharoenwattanasuk told Reuters of the drive-by shooting.

"The investigation has just begun but we believe this is a politically motivated crime," Tharoenwattanasuk said.

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Lucky for Kwanchai, his wounds - shots taken in his arm and leg - are not life threatening.

But the attack on the "red shirt leader" has further strained relations between the anti-government protesters and the government.

The protests began in November after allegations surfaced that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was being controlled by her brother, former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra. Yingluck has refused to step down and called for new elections to be held Feb. 2. But the government opposition wants an unelected "people's council" to take over for Yingluck. Many are threatening to boycott the vote, CNN reports.

Thailand's national security chief, Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathubut told CNN the newly imposed state of emergency had been advised because "we are predicting that (the) situation might get more violent" as the vote nears."

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The state of emergency will persist through the next 60 days because of the uptick in assaults and brutality, CNN reports. At least nine individuals have died since the protests began last year, with each side holding the other responsible for the bloodshed.

"We are witnessing more gun shootings and bomb incidents on the streets of Bangkok," Patthanathubut said.

Now that a state of emergency has been declared the government has the power to enforce curfews, detain suspects without court approval, censor the media and restrict access to parts of the capital. The police have been enlisted to enforce the temporary state of emergency, though up until now they have been told to avoid confrontation with the protesters, the BBC reports.

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