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Thailand

Thai protesters converge as Bangkok 'shutdown' begins

Protesters in Thailand have amassed to implement a threatened "shutdown" in Bangkok aimed at thwarting elections planned for February. Shots were fired overnight, before demonstrators began to block major roads.

Protesters aim to "shutdown" Bangkok

Opposition protesters began implementing a planned shutdown of Bangkok, on Monday, occupying the intersections of major thoroughfares in the Thai capital.

Thousands of protesters - many wearing T-shirts adorned with the slogan "Bangkok Shutdown" - amassed at key points across the city. The intersections were already reported to have been blocked in the morning.

The People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has said it would avoid direct disturbances to public transport such as subway services and air travel. However, the group has admitted that its protests should cause some level of disruption to public transport.

Overnight, an unidentified gunman opened fire on protesters camped near a large government complex. One man was reported to have been shot in the neck and admitted to hospital. In a separate incident, another shooter fired some 10 shots at the headquarters of the Democrat Party, although no injuries were reported.

Boycotting of elections

Protest leaders have said they aim to maintain the shutdown of Bangkok for weeks, or until they obtain their goal. The PDRC wants democratically-elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign to make way for a "people's council."

The PDRC claims Yingluck is a puppet for her brother, the billionaire former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in 2006.

The main protest leader is former senior Democrat member, Suthep Thaugsuban, who served at deputy prime minister in the party's 2008-2011 government.

Recent demonstrations have drawn up to 150,000-200,000 people at their height. Their attempt to unseat the government has been helped by the opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the February elections.

rc/pfd (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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