01/22/2014, 00.00
THAILAND
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Opposition defies state of emergency in Bangkok as pro-government figures is wounded in the north

A leading pro-government 'red shirt' personality is wounded after being shot in the shoulder and the leg. 'Red' leaders announce non-stop protests. Sources tell AsiaNews that "The idea is to hold a vote, have it overturned on legal grounds in order to gain six months to pursue reforms. However, there is no strong personality that could encourage compromise."

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - This morning, a leader of the 'Red Shirts', a pro-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra movement, was wounded by gunshots fired outside of his home in Udon Thani province in the country's north-east, a government electoral stronghold.

Kwanchai Praipan, the host of a show on a pro-government radio that took a leading role in the 'red shirt' occupation of Bangkok in 2010 was shot in the shoulder and the leg. Unknown gunmen fired at him from a vehicle near his home and then fled.

Only yesterday, the radio host and activist had told Reuters that government loyalists "would fight" and that the country "would burn" in case of a coup against Yingluck.

In the capital, everything appears calm as people go about their business.

In spite of the 60-day state of emergency imposed on Bangkok and neighbouring provinces, police did not intervene against protesters. Still, there is a real risk that the political crisis could escalate into violence.

Overnight, anti-government leader Suthep Thaugsuban dismissed the government's move, urging his supporters not to be afraid and to continue with the demonstrations.

"We have protested for months," the 'yellow shirt' leader said. "Why has a state of emergency become necessary now?" In his view, his loyal followers should ignore government orders.

"We shall defy all of them, marching in every street where we are not allowed," he said. "We shall use speakers, even if they are banned. We shall do everything they ban."

For weeks, a growing opposition-led army of protesters has been calling on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.

According to protesters, Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former prime minister and brother of the current prime minister, is "governing in absentia".

For her part, Prime Minister Shinawatra has refused to resign and has instead called new elections for 2 February.

A government source in Bangkok, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that compromise and dialogue are hard to achieve in Thailand even when "the greater good" is at stake.

However, a possible solution looms on the horizon. If achieved, it would give the country a few months to implement necessary reforms, taking politics out of the streets and putting it back into the halls of power.

"The latest information indicates that elections will be held," the source said, "partly because the government no longer has the power to put them off after the King signed the decree [dissolving parliament]. Postponing or cancelling the vote would be borderline unconstitutional".

However, once the polls open on 2 February "the vote is not likely to succeed" because it will not be "popular and comprehensive."

Hence, the government might refer the matter to the Constitutional Court to have it overturned, "gaining an extra five-six months during which the parties can agree to basic reforms."

Both sides could accept this possibility since this would give Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra extra time "according to democratic principles" to implement the reforms "yellow shirts are clamouring for."

Unfortunately, the country lacks "an authoritative figure capable of getting the parties to sit down and negotiate a compromise acceptable to the country."

In short, there is no single political or government figure who could break Thailand's deadlock, pre-empting the country's traditional habit of military coups.

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