PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN - Four homes belonging to farmers connected with the rubber price protest blockading Phetkasem Road were fired at multiple times by unknown assailants on Friday.
A farmers' leader displays cartridges of M16 bullets fired at guards by unknown gunmen near the protest site in Bang Saphan Noi district of Prachuap Khiri Khan on Thursday night. On Friday, four homes of protesters in the district were fired on. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Somchai Boonyasit, a former member of the protest group, said he saw two cars drive by his home in Bang Saphan Noi district. Soon after, a bomb thrown from one of the vehicles exploded outside his house, followed by gunfire.
Mr Somchai said he believed the attacks were related to the ongoing rubber protest because lately he had not been having any problems with anyone else.
A house and a garage about 40 metres away from Phetkasem, owned by one of the rubber protest figureheads, Pichai Kaewniam, 36, were also shot at.
An unknown number of gunmen open fired at his car parked out front and damaged the roof of his shop with grenade rounds, said Mr Pichai.
Chaowalit Iatkaew's home had two bullet holes and a threatening message was spray-painted in red on its front door, reports said.
He was one of the leaders of the rubber and palm oil farmers who have been demanding price increases for their products. He left the group on Thursday.
A suspicious-looking taped-up box was also placed on a chair in front of the house. Police later discovered that the box was empty.
Rounds fired from grenade launchers also left three large holes in the front door of a home belonging to Theerapong Kaewnuan, 36, a former leader of the rubber protest, and his sister, Sayamol Kaewnuan, 41.
Two cars parked at the home were also riddled with bullets.
Some supporters of the Pheu Thai party have been alleging that various protests against the amnesty bill and the rubber protest are linked, and those behind the rallies are seeking to undermine the government.
Mr Theerapong said the protesters may have to lift the highway closure and mobilise in Bangkok on Saturday as violence has escalated in their home province.
According to villagers in the area, gunshots were heard at the four spots at roughly the same time, around 2am, in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
More than 3,000 rubber and palm oil farmers from various southern provinces have closed Phetkasem Road at kilometre marker 415 in Bang Saphan Noi district since the afternoon of Oct 27, causing severe traffic congestion throughout the South.
They say the government has ignored their demands that the price of unsmoked rubber sheets be guaranteed at 100 baht per kilogramme and oil palm at six baht per kg.
Police and government officials have tried and failed to negotiate with the group on many occasions.
Around 1,500 police officers have been deployed since Monday to contain the protest from spreading beyond Bang Saphan district. Authorities say they also have concerns over possible clashes between demonstrators and local people unhappy with highway blockade.