Thai yellow-shirt leader shot

Sondhi Limthongkul receives a bloody head injury but survives after gunmen riddle his car with bullets at a petrol station.

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BANGKOK // The founder of Thailand's "yellow shirt" protest movement, which was behind the week-long occupation of Bangkok's main airports last year, was shot and wounded early today, a spokesman for his movement said. The assassination attempt came hours before the government extended a state of emergency in the capital and the cabinet was met to discuss the past week's political violence as well as the budget and a stimulus package for the beleaguered economy.

Sondhi Limthongkul received a bloody head injury but survived after gunmen riddled his car with bullets at a petrol station before dawn on Thursday, People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) spokesman Panthep Puapongpan said. The director of Vajira hospital said some bullet fragments and bits of skull bone had been removed in a successful operation. "He is safe now and able to talk," said Dr Chaiwan Chareonchoktawee. A driver and bodyguard were also wounded, the driver seriously.

Mr Sondhi's yellow-shirted PAD supporters have not been part of the latest political violence in Thailand, which involved the red-shirted supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup and now in self-imposed exile. However, its protests undermined pro-Thaksin governments in 2008 after the return of democracy. When the courts disbanded the ruling pro-Thaksin party for electoral fraud, Abhisit Vejjajiva, acceptable to the PAD, became prime minister in December 2008.

The PAD is an extra-parliamentary group of royalists, academics, ex-military people and Bangkok's middle classes united in their loathing of Mr Thaksin, a former telecoms billionaire who draws his support from the rural poor. On a PAD-run radio station, another PAD leader, Pipop Thongchai, quickly pointed the figure at "Thaksin's lieutenants who could not accept defeat after their setbacks" over the past week, when troops forced them to end a siege of Government House.

"I would like to point out that this involves only Thaksin and not the majority of his ordinary red shirts who should be separated from him in this incident," he said. *Reuters