Daylight bombing of protest heightens fears

Daylight bombing of protest heightens fears

A demonstrator injured by the explosion on Banthat Thong road is taken to a hospital on Friday Jan 17, 2013.
A demonstrator injured by the explosion on Banthat Thong road is taken to a hospital on Friday Jan 17, 2013.

A daylight attack and grenade explosion that injured 36 protesters marching on Banthat Thong Road on Friday underscored fears of rising violence as the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) continued its shutdown campaign to oust caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Soldiers show fragments believed to be part of an M26 grenade hurled at protesters on Banthat Thong road on Friday. (Photo by Kosol Nakachol)

The attack occurred at 1.04pm, the explosion hitting the protest about 200 metres from where PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban was leading the march from the Lumpini Park stage to Silom, Si Phraya and Banthat Thong roads.

The blast occurred near Charoen Phol intersection and Supachalasai Stadium in Pathumwan.

Mr Suthep was quickly taken away by security guards to the protest rally site at Lumpini Park, where he held talks with other key protest leaders.

Security guards and soldiers then entered a deserted building near Chula Soi 8 which was pointed out by witnesses as the place where the bomb came from. PDRC guards did not allow police to join their search for a bomb suspect, saying they feared that officers would try to damage the evidence.

Police were booed when they reached the scene, a Bangkok Post reporter said.

Protesters saw a man in the building at the time the attack occurred and quickly sealed off the place.

BlueSky television showed pictures of loaded guns, food, styrofoam food containers with delivery names written on them, towels and other evidence of a long stay, including a working refrigerator, found in a room inside the unoccupied building. Walkie-talkie radios were also found in the room.

A Bangkok Post reporter said two police badges and four walkie-talkies were found.

A protester hunts a bomb suspect in a building believed to be the place where a bomb was thrown at protesters. (Photo by Kosol Nakachol)

It was initially announced eight people had been injured, then the toll steadily climbed, first to 20, then at least 28 and the Erawan Emergency Centre later announcing 36 people were being treated for injuries caused by the Banthat Thong blast.

The bomb is believed to have been an M26 grenade, a grenade cap for which was found at the blast site. The surface of the road was also damaged by the explosion.

The bombing at Banthat Thong was the first in daylight hours since the Bangkok Shutdown protests began. Earlier on in the day, an explosion believed to be a giant firecracker was heard near the rally site on Chaeng Wattana road.

The Bangkok protests have faced sporadic attacks in recent days, all of them at night and involving M26 hand grenades. They included a bomb thrown into the famed Suan Pakkad Palace on Si Ayutthaya Road, home of Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, late Thursday night. The house of Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva was hit by the same kind of grenade on Wednesday night and another bomb and gunshots shook the Hua Change bridge near the Pathumwan stage the same night.

PDRC representative Ekanat Promphan said on Friday that the bombs could not deter demonstrators from ousting Ms Yingluck and undertaking reform in the country.

Former charter drafter Seree Suwannapanon urged the caretaker prime minister to resign instead of holding on to the plan to carry out an election. Her resignation could prevent more violence leading up to the polls on Feb 2, he told FM101 news programme.

"The caretaker prime minister should show responsibility. With such a huge number of people on the streets, the government leader of any other country would resign,'' he said. "I'm not saying that the demonstrators are the majority, but their numbers are large enough."

Pichai Rattanadilok Na Phuket, dean of the School of Social and Environmental Development at the National Institute of Development and Administration, told the radio station before the attack occurred that he expected increasing violence after bombings on Wednesday and Thursday night.

The caretaker government did not react to the explosion at Banthat Thong.

The largely unknown Enough is Enough group, or Por Gun Tee, meanwhile announced it was concerned that violence could derail the Feb 2 polls.

The public should help prevent any more violence, which would only undermine the election, coordinator Kittichai Ngamchaipisit said.

Mr Kittichai said a silent majority under the banner of the white-shirt or candle-light groups, and other individuals, would like to use the general election to express their political choice.

The red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) earlier this week called on members nationwide to adopt white as their symbolic colour to oppose a coup.


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