Bangkok protests: Thailand PM Yingluck Shinawatra stays defiant

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SummaryWith Bangkok protests putting increasing pressure on her, a defiant Thailand prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra...

With Bangkok protests putting increasing pressure on her, a defiant Thailand prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Wednesday that elections, due in less than three weeks, will go ahead despite her opponents demanding postponement of vote. The vow came after an overnight shooting attack on anti-government protesters in Bangkok wounded two people and ratcheted up tensions in the country's deepening political crisis.

Yingluck Shinawatra had had offered to meet with rivals Wednesday to discuss an Election Commission proposal to delay the Feb. 2 ballot. But protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and the opposition Democrat Party refused to take part, saying reform to get rid of corruption in politics must happen first.

Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters after a meeting with members of her Cabinet, registered candidates and a top electoral official that there was no legal way for the Election Commission to delay it.

"The rights of the people are important,'' said Yingluck Shinawatra, who a day earlier rejected calls by demonstrators to resign.

Thailand has been wracked by repeated bouts of unrest since the military ousted Yingluck's brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in 2006 amid charges of corruption and alleged disrespect for the monarchy. The crisis boiled over again late last year after a failed ruling party bid to push through an amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return from exile. Although that effort was quashed, protests intensified and so far at least eight people have been killed and more than 450 have been injured.

Yingluck Shinawatra has tried to ease the crisis by dissolving Parliament and calling for elections. But there are growing doubts next month's vote will take place because the protest movement, which is vying to bring down her government, is trying to derail it. The Democrat Party, which would not have been able to win a majority, has also called for a boycott.

There are also growing fears of violence. Although most of Bangkok remains unaffected by the latest wave of rallies that have blocked key roads and overpasses in some parts of the city, gunshots rang out overnight on a street leading to one of the capital's glitziest shopping districts, which has been occupied since Monday by camping demonstrators.

Bangkok's emergency services office said one man was hit in the ankle and a woman was hit in the arm in the shooting.

Sompong Pongsattha, a 56-year-old resident who witnessed the attack in the Pathumwan district, said about 30 gunshots were fired from an unknown

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