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Attackers hurts dozens at Thai anti-govt rally

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February 22, 2014 01:15 PM EST | AP

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BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — At least 35 people were hurt Saturday night when an anti-government rally in eastern Thailand was attacked by gunmen, police said.

Police Lt. Thanabhum Newanit said assailants in a pick-up truck attacked a the rally held by the People's Democratic Reform Committee in the province of Trat, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) east of Bangkok.

He said attackers shot into the crowd and two explosive devices went off. It was not clear if the protest group, which uses armed guards, fought back. Hospitals said several of those hurt were in intensive care or undergoing surgery.

Protest-linked violence has increased recently, in the forms of fighting with police and attacks by unknown parties on the protest sites, which are mainly in the capital, Bangkok. On Friday night six people were hurt when unknown attackers threw a grenade into a protest crowd in the capital.

In the past three months 15 people have been killed and hundreds injured. The protesters want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign to make way for an appointed interim government to implement anti-corruption reforms.

Thailand has been riven by sometimes violent political conflict since 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin's supporters and opponents have since then taken to the streets for extended periods in a power struggle.

In 2010, pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" occupied part of Bangkok for two months. When the army was called out to control them, more than 90 people were killed in violent confrontations.

The Red Shirts have mostly kept a low profile during the current political unrest, but as Yingluck faces what her supporters feel are unfair court rulings loosening her grip on power, there are fears they will take to the streets again.

Thaksin and his allies have won every national election since 2001, with his sister taking office in 2011 with a majority of parliamentary seats.

Yingluck late last year called early elections to try to reaffirm her mandate, but the protesters disrupted polling, which has yet to be completed, leaving Thailand with a caretaker government. She also faces several legal challenges that could oust her from office.

Thaksin's opponents claim he unfairly uses money politics and populist policies to dominate Thai politics.