BANGKOK: A five-year-old girl was killed and 30 people wounded in a drive-by shooting attack on an anti-government rally in eastern Thailand, police said on Sunday.
In the latest outbreak of political violence in the deeply polarized nation, gunmen in two pick-up trucks opened fire Saturday night at a rally in a packed marketplace.
“A five-year-old girl was shot and died later while 30 other people were injured,” said local police lieutenant Thanaphum Naewani.
He said the shooting in Khao Saming district of Trat province, 300 kilometers east of the capital, was believed to be politically motivated.
Another five-year-old girl was among six people in critical condition after the shooting, Supan Srithamma, head of Thailand’s Department of Medical Services, said.
Television footage showed dozens of upturned plastic chairs at the rally site and abandoned street stalls after people fled in panic.
Months of rallies aimed at toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have been marred by sporadic gun and grenade attacks—mainly in Bangkok—by unknown assailants.
The violence has fuelled fears of more widespread unrest in the kingdom, which has suffered bitter political divisions since a military coup ousted Yingluck’s older brother Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister in 2006.
Hours after the attack, leaders of the pro-government “Red Shirt” movement met in Nakhon Ratchasima, the gateway to the Shinawatra-allied northeast, to discuss ways to bolster Yingluck’s crisis-hit administration.
The anti-government movement condemned the attack, blaming authorities for failing to protect rally goers.
“Weapons of war were used in an act of planned and organized terror,” protest spokesman Akanat Promphan said. “This atrocity has worsened the severity of the violence against innocent protesters . . . it is a matter of national security,” he said, urging authorities to swiftly track down the attackers.