At least two dead as anti-government protests in Thailand heat up

Thai anti-government protesters attack a public bus which Red Shirt pro-government supporters transport them toward a support government rally outside Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, 30 November 2013. Bangkok has been rocked by protests since 01 November 2013, when the ruling coalition attempted to push through an amnesty that would have pardoned Thaksin and thousands of other politically related cases during 2004-13. Rungroj Yongrit / EPA

At least two people were killed after violence erupted between rival political factions in Thailand’s capital late Saturday and early Sunday. It was the first violence during a week of protests aimed at unseating the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

A Thai government supporter was shot to death early Sunday in Bangkok, Reuters reported. Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to force back protesters trying to force their way into the prime minister's office compound, and police also drove back crowds at police headquarters, The Associated Press reported. 

Shots were fired Saturday night near the Rajamangala sports stadium, which was hosting a rally of about 700,000 red-shirted government supporters, according to Reuters. One young man was killed by the gunfire, while at least five people suffered injuries from gunshot wounds.

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It was not immediately known who fired the shots.

National Police Deputy Spokesman Anucha Romyanan told the AP that the dead man was 21-year-old Thaweesak Photkaew.

Five others at the rally were injured by knives or rocks. There also were reports of scattered violence during the day, as anti-government protesters attacked people they believed were going to the rally at the stadium. Students attacked buses carrying government supporters, smashing windows and causing some minor injuries to passengers.

The goal of the anti-government protesters is to oust Yingluck’s government, which came to power following the 2011 general election, over the belief that her regime serves the interests of her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The former prime minister was ousted by a military coup in 2006 following corruption charges, but remains popular with certain sectors of the population, mostly in the rural North. 

Thai pro-government Red Shirt supporters wave clappers and cheer leaders' speeches during a rally at a stadium in Bangkok on November 30, 2013. Tensions escalated in the Thai capital on November 30 as opposition protesters tried to force their way into Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's heavily guarded offices and attacked a bus carrying her supporters. Christophe Archambault / AFP - Getty Images
<p>Tensions have flared recently, especially as the current ruling Pheu Thai party sought to pass an amnesty law through Parliament that would have allowed for Thaksin Shinawatra to return from exile. </p> <p>Before Saturday's violence, protesters had focused on occupying government buildings, with the AP reporting that the Finance Ministry and other government offices had been seized. </p> <p>In response, police said on Saturday that the military had agreed to dispatch 2,730 personnel to aid in security efforts on Sunday.</p> <p>Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. </p>
Thousands of anti-government protesters gather as they march toward to Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in Bangkok November 30, 2013. Police tightened security in Thailand's capital on Saturday as thousands of protesters rallied outside a state telecommunications group and vowed to occupy Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's office to paralyse her administration. Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters