Dozens wounded in Bangkok grenade attack on protesters

Attack wounds 36 and ratchets tensions up after days of calm in Thai capital

Injured anti-government protesters in Bangkok. The demonstrators, composed largely of the city’s middle class and the royalist establishment, are calling for the removal of the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, billionaire former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Photograph: EPA/STR

Injured anti-government protesters in Bangkok. The demonstrators, composed largely of the city’s middle class and the royalist establishment, are calling for the removal of the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, billionaire former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Photograph: EPA/STR

Sat, Jan 18, 2014, 01:00


A grenade thrown from a row of empty houses at anti-government protesters wounded 36 in central Bangkok yesterday, reigniting tensions after days of calm had suggested a lockdown of the Thai capital was fading.

“The explosion was the government’s doing,” said protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban at a rally at Lumpini Park. “We are not afraid and we will fight on.”

The demonstrators were marching near Chulalongkorn University in the city centre with Suthep, who was unharmed. He said it would not dent the morale of thousands of anti-government protesters who stepped up their protests on Monday, bringing Bangkok to a standstill and occupying government ministries.


People’s council
The demonstrators, composed largely of Bangkok’s middle class and the royalist establishment, are calling for the removal of the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, billionaire former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled the country to avoid a jail term for corruption. The protesters say they want an unelected “people’s council” to apply broad political reforms.

The government accused Suthep’s camp of “desperate” acts and said the movement was staging attacks and trying to blame the government.

Yingluck now heads a caretaker administration ahead of an election that has been called for February 2nd. A government electoral commission has urged the government to defer the vote until April or May, saying the political environment is too tense to proceed next month.


Boycott
The opposition has promised to boycott the vote, aware that it would most likely lose to Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party.Strong support from rural voters has enabled Thaksin or his allies win every election since 2001.

The main catalyst for starting the demonstrations in November was to oppose a proposed amnesty law that the opposition believed would benefit Thaksin. The government later backed off but the opposition started to make louder noises about taking on the Shinawatras.

The demonstrations to date had been largely peaceful, with occasional flashes of violence – eight people have died and scores have been injured.

There are fears the grenade attack could see an early intervention by the military, which has intervened some 18 times in 81 years, but the army appears unwilling to become involved.

This is due in part to the fact that pro-government “red shirts” have steered clear of Bangkok, so there have been no street clashes. The red shirts took over swathes of the city in April 2010 before the government ordered the troops in. More than 90 people were killed. The red shirts are watching closely, however.

“There have been frequent violent incidents both day and night, creating losses to both protesters and state officials,” said Winthai Suvaree, the deputy army spokesman. “These actions pose a great danger to national security.”