By Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK, April 17 (Reuters) - The founder of Thailand’s "yellow shirt" protest movement, which was behind the week-long occupation of Bangkok’s main airports late last year, was shot and wounded early on Friday, a spokesman for his movement said.
The car of Sondhi Limthongkul was attacked in a petrol station near the central bank around 5 a.m (2200 GMT on Thursday), a spokesman for his People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) told Reuters.
The PAD was not part of the latest political violence in Thailand over the past week, which involved the red-shirted supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a coup in 2006 and now living in self-imposed exile.
The PAD is an extra-parliamentary group of royalists, academics, former military people and Bangkok’s middle classes united in their loathing of Thaksin, a former telecoms billionaire who draws his support from the rural poor.
PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan said a driver and bodyguard were also in Sondhi’s car. All three were wounded, the driver seriously.
He said the attack was carried out by two gunmen, who drove into the petrol station, shot out the tyres of Sondhi’s car and then riddled the vehicle with bullets.
Sondhi founded the PAD in 2005 after falling out with Thaksin, who used to be a business associate.
A state of emergency is in effect in Bangkok after violent anti-government protests this week in which two people were killed.
The protests ended on Tuesday when the "red shirts" who had been occupying the grounds of Government House since March 26 surrendered to the hundreds of troops surrounding the building, the main office of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Abhisit extended the three-day Thai new year holiday until the end of the week to help the authorities restore law and order and repair infrastructure damaged in the protests, especially at key road junctions.
However, financial markets reopened on Thursday and both the stock exchange and baht ended little changed from before the holiday. (Reporting by Vithoon Amorn, Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)