TEAR GAS is being fired into crowds of protesters as riot police endeavor to clear the highway between Bangkok and Phuket tonight, according to some reports. One person alleged that acid had been thrown.
PHUKET: Rubber farmers blocked the main road from Bangkok, leading south to Phuket, Malaysia and Singapore at 6pm tonight amid reports of violence and many people injured.
Both sides of the road were blocked. The action came on the Asia Highway 2 at Bang Saphan, a narrow point on the Isthmus of Kra in the province of Prajuab Kirikhan.
Gunshots were heard, although there was no specific confirmation that anyone had been wounded.
Narong Sapyen, a local police superintendent, told Reuters: ''There was some fighting between protesters and the police and at least one policeman was injured after having acid thrown in his face.
''Some protesters were injured too but we don't know how many.'' Ten protest leaders were arrested, he said.
Riot police have been used to protect airports and roads in areas in Thailand's southern provinces where protesters have gathered to air their grievances over low prices.
Although no action has taken place in tourist areas - Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga are all in rubber-growing regions - there is a general threat to shut down the administrative centres, the Provincial Halls, in the 14 southern provinces.
Thailand's Government has so far failed to offer subsidies to prop up the rubber price. Today Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra backed the appointment of a committee to oversee prices.
Its first mission is to meet with protest leaders at 10am on Friday in Nakhon Si Thammarat. All committee members - including three deputy prime ministers - are scheduled to join the meeting.
Senior figures in the opposition Democrat Party, including former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have offered the protesters moral support. The southern provinces mostly vote Democrat.
A delegation of police from Phuket are working in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Tourist destinations such as Krabi and Phuket are being impacted, government officials say, because the flow of visitors is being obstructed.