Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Bangkok blast kills one, wounds 22

GRENADE ATTACK The blast came just hours after the end of a days long funeral for the king’s sister, which provided a brief respite from months of political unrest


One Thai protester was killed and 22 wounded yesterday in a blast at a Bangkok demonstration site, police said, raising fears of an upsurge in political violence after a recent lull.

The explosion hit before dawn at the prime minister’s Government House offices, in the first deadly attack inside the compound since anti-government protest group the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupied it in August.

PAD leaders accused the government of being behind the attack and called for massive protests against the current administration, which they accuse of being corrupt and a proxy for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“The PAD will no longer tolerate daily brutal crackdowns by the government and cannot accept any type of Thaksin regime,” the group said in a statement.

“Therefore we have reached a consensus to call for a mass protest on Sunday November 23 at 2pm to move to parliament to finally get rid of the proxy government and stop the tyrants,” they said.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat immediately denied any involvement and vowed a swift police investigation into the incident.

“It is not government policy to use force or violence,” Somchai told reporters. “No one wants bloodshed or killing among Thais.”

Thailand has been gripped by escalating political turmoil since May when the PAD began their rallies, but there was a respite for the six-day funeral of Princess Galyani, late sister of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The elaborate cremation ceremonies ended on Wednesday evening, and within hours the blast hit in front of a stage at the sprawling Bangkok protest site, where hundreds of people are camped out in a fortified tented city.

Twenty-three wounded demonstrators — 12 men and 11 women — were taken to four hospitals, an emergency services spokesman said. One 48-year-old man later died, while 11 of the victims remain in a serious condition.

General Jongrak Chutanont, deputy national police chief, said that the explosion was caused by a grenade fired from an M79 rocket launcher.

“It was fired from somewhere outside Government House,” he told reporters, but said police were struggling with their investigations as PAD supporters were not letting them into the compound.

Jongrak said police had also set up checkpoints across the city.

“This is in response to the rumours that there will be a series of bomb attacks in the city after the royal cremation,” he said.

Police meanwhile have said the PAD’s personal militia who guard the protest camp —- known as the “Srivijaya Warriors” — are armed, and two people have been shot after rows near the occupied compound in central Bangkok.

Somchai, Thaksin’s brother-in-law, has been working with his Cabinet from an abandoned airport terminal since demonstrators seized his offices in August.

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