Seven protesters were injured in a shooting near an anti-government rally Saturday in Thailand’s capital, police sources said, after soldiers and police were deployed Friday night to important sites around Bangkok.
The deployment comes ahead of a plan by anti-government protesters to shut down the capital Monday by blocking traffic at key intersections, providing a fitting metaphor for the country's politics: no way forward, no backing out.
The security forces were directed to 20 key sites, including the prime minister's residence, by the Center for the Administration of Peace and Order.
The demonstrators' slogan is "Reform before election," and they claim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is acting as a stand-in for her brother Thaksin Shinwatra, who is calling the shots from exile in Dubai, where he fled in 2008 to avoid a jail term for a corruption conviction.
Thaksin, a former prime minister, was ousted in a military coup in 2006 after being accused of corruption. Yingluck in November drew the ire of the opposition by introducing an amnesty bill that they believe would have allowed Thaksin to return.
In response to the dispute that followed, Yingluck dissolved parliament in December and called for elections on Feb. 2.
The protesters planning to tie up traffic in Bangkok on Monday are demanding that Yingluck and her caretaker government step down and freeze elections for up to two years, during which time an interim, unelected "People's Council" would implement reforms to fight corruption and put an end to money politics.
Tensions are high, with eight people killed over the past two months in connection with the protests.
The demonstrations have been largely peaceful with the intent of occupying government buildings in order to paralyze the government. But recent protests have become increasingly violent, with street battles against police and several drive-by shootings near their main opposition encampment.
The political crisis could play out several ways.
One scenario is a military coup. The protesters – headed by the People's Democratic Reform Committee – hope to trigger enough chaos to force the army to take over to restore order.
The military has staged about a dozen successful coups since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. As recently as Tuesday, army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha refused to rule out the possibility of another.
In another scenario, the Feb. 2 elections would take place as scheduled. But if candidates who were blocked from registering by protesters are unable to run, seats in their constituencies will be empty, making it impossible to meet a quorum in Parliament.
For that reason, the Electoral Commission has proposed postponing the elections until May 4, according to the Bangkok Post. However, Yingluck has said she cannot legally postpone the election and that such a move could lead to the dissolution of her Puea Thai party.
Al Jazeera and wire services