A grenade attack injured at least 34 anti-government protesters in Thailand, who have occupied the prime minister’s office in Bangkok for months. (photo, from bbc.co.uk)
The blast occurred near a stage set up for rallies in front of government house on Saturday, said a police official.
“The grenade was launched just after midnight, 300 metres from the stage in the government house compound”, Suriyasai Katasila, a spokesman for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement, told local Channel Three television.
“Protesters have returned to their positions, they are not scared.”
Two protesters were killed last week in a series of grenade attacks on the PAD camp at government house.
“We can only assume that these attacks are the work of government supporters … trying to scare the anti-government supporters to abandon their protests”, reported Selina Downes, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Bangkok.
This blast comes while there is a standoff between police and thousands of demonstrators who have occupied Bangkok’s main airports, crippling the country’s tourism industry.
On Monday, the PAD began a “final battle” to unseat Somchai Wongsawat, the Thai prime minister, which has deepened the country’s political crisis. The PAD accuse Mr Somchai of being a pawn of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who is his brother-in-law.
On Thursday Mr Somchai rejected military calls to qui, so now pressure is building on the army to oust him, like they did in 2006 with Mr Thaksin.
By barricading themselves in the airports, the PAD members are doing massive damage to the economy, said the country’s prime minister in a televised address on Thursday night. But he added that he would avoid violence to end the protests.
“Don’t worry. Officials will use gentle measures to deal with them”, said Mr Somchai, inviting rights groups and journalists to monitor the imposition of emergency rule at the two airports.
But on Friday he took a tougher line with his police chief, demoting General Patcharawat Wongsuwan to an inactive post.
Gen Patcharawat had been sacked for refusing to send riot police in to end the protest, said local newspapers, while no official reason was given.
On the ground, commanders said that they would not yet try to evict by force the thousands of protesters at Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports.
Ready for a prolonged siege
At a police checkpoint, PAD supporters deflated the tyres of ambulances and police vehicles. Several vehicles were left stranded in the middle of the road.
With their “security guards” armed with clubs, sticks and golf clubs, and dug in behind a series of barricades of fire trucks, razor wire, car tyres and luggage trolleys, the PAD say they are ready for a prolonged siege.
On Saturday, Chamlong Srimuang, PAD co-leader and a retired general, told supporters not to go to Suvarnabhumi as there were enough people there. He said that instead they should go to government house, where the protests started months ago.
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled, thousands of foreign tourists stranded and millions of dollars of air cargo grounded by the airport sit-ins.