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Two wounded as shots fired on Bangkok protest


Two people were wounded in a shooting at an opposition rally in the Thai capital Wednesday, authorities said, as protest leaders prepared to march through plush city neighbourhoods in their bid to oust the premier.

The demonstrators, backed by the kingdom's royalist establishment, want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign to make way for an unelected "people's council" that would oversee reforms to curb the political dominance of her billionaire brother Thaksin.

A man and a woman were taken to hospital with minor wounds after shots were fired shortly after midnight on the fringes of the protesters' main "shutdown" base in Bangkok's commercial heart, according to the city's Erawan emergency centre.

Both were discharged overnight. Local reports said they were a garbage man and a protester. Television footage showed dozens of shots fired by unknown gunmen.

Several people -- including a policeman -- have been killed by unidentified assailants since the protests began more than two months ago.

Late on Tuesday a makeshift explosive device -- either a small bomb or a firecracker -- was also hurled at a house belonging to the family of opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is also a former prime minister, but nobody was injured, according to police.

Abhisit's Democrat Party is boycotting elections called by Yingluck for February 2.

The protest group said their firebrand leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, would lead a march through several upscale Bangkok neighbourhoods while other demonstrators would besiege more government departments.

However, it distanced itself from a threat by a hardcore anti-government faction to seize air traffic control or the Thai stock exchange.

"Any disturbance to citizens and foreign tourists will be as minimal as possible," it said.

Suthep threatened late Tuesday to take the prime minister and several cabinet ministers captive if they do not resign.

The former Democrat lawmaker is renowned for his blustery rhetoric, but the threat reflects an air of impunity surrounding rally leaders who have not been detained despite warrants for their arrest.

Protesters blocked key intersections in the capital for a third straight day Wednesday, but there was more traffic on the roads, in a possible sign that the attempted "shutdown" was losing momentum.

The rallies were triggered by a failed amnesty bill that could have allowed Thaksin to return despite a jail term for a past corruption conviction.

The tycoon-turned-politician has strong electoral support in northern Thailand, but he is reviled by many southerners, Bangkok's middle class and members of the royalist establishment.