Rival groups clash at Thailand's Lak Si

BANGKOK - Violence continued yesterday in the face of anti-government rallies with shots fired at Bangkok's Lak Si intersection, which saw at least four people wounded by gunshots and three slightly injured by giant firecrackers.

Police and army officers, meanwhile, were looking to set up 60 additional checkpoints until tomorrow. Some 34 checkpoints have already been set up.

Police also plan to send 88 rapid-response units to join the Army in beefing up security in the 50 districts in Bangkok, plus six districts in Nonthaburi, Lat Lum Kaew in Pathum Thani and Bang Phli in Samut Prakan, according to police deputy spokesman Pol Maj-General Anucha Rommayanant.

At least seven people were injured in clashes between red shirts and protesters led by the People's Democratic Reform Committee outside the Lak Si district office yesterday afternoon.

The confrontation occurred after Luangpu Puttha Issara, a monk who has headed the rally at Chaeng Wattana, led protesters to surround the district office to prevent the transport of ballots and ballot boxes to polling stations.

While the PDRC protesters were rallying, hardline red-shirt leader Wutthipong Kachatham, or Ko Tee, led some 200 red shirts to confront the protesters. Nation Channel reported that sounds of explosions were heard four times while the two sides were about 800 metres from each other - believed to be giant firecrackers. A car was also reportedly smashed amid the chaos.

At around 4pm, two firecracker explosions were heard under an overpass at the Lak Si intersection and three people were slightly injured, including Jirawat Sukanon, a Daily News reporter, who suffered wounds to his mouth and nose.

Up to 40 gunshots and several giant firecracker explosions were then heard. It was later reported that at least one person was wounded by a gunshot in front of the nearby IT Square Mall, which shut shortly after.

PDRC protesters at the Lat Phrao intersection sent men to rescue fellow protesters at the district office compound.

As gunshots continued to be fired in the Lak Si intersection area, some 30 bystanders were caught up on a nearby pedestrian bridge and barged through the mall's doors to seek refuge inside the building.

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