Thai anti-government protesters march through the city centre during the Bangkok Shutdown rally in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 January 2014. - EPA
BANGKOK (AFP): A Thai anti-government protest leader was shot dead Sunday and several other people were injured as demonstrators blocked advance voting for a controversial general election.
“Suthin Tharathin was shot in the head while giving a speech from the back of a pick-up truck,” protest spokesman Akanat Promphan told AFP.
“The government has failed to provide any safety and security for anybody today despite the emergency decree,” he said, referring to a government order empowering police to control protests.
Bangkok's Erawan emergency centre confirmed one man had been killed and nine injured in the shooting in the city suburbs, without giving further details.
Hundreds of protesters earlier Sunday besieged polling stations in Bangkok and forced most to close, obstructing advance voting for next weekend's election and deepening doubts about whether it can go ahead.
The embattled government of Yingluck Shinawatra called the election for February 2 to try to calm months of street protests.
Demonstrators trying to topple her government fiercely oppose the snap election.
Suthin was the tenth person to be killed during nearly three months of rallies that have sparked international concern and investor fears over the country's economy.
Hundreds more have been wounded.
Each side in the bitterly divided kingdom blames the other for the violence.
Thailand's recent history has been scarred by sporadic street unrest since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, was ousted by a military coup in 2006.
The most serious bloodshed was in 2010 when scores of pro-Thaksin Red Shirts were killed in an army crackdown.