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Deadly bomb attack rocks Bangkok amid protests

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-23

At least two people have died, including a young boy, when a bomb went off in busy shopping district in Thailand’s capital Bangkok on Sunday, authorities have reported.

The explosion took place hours after supporters of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had promised to get tough with demonstrators, paralysing parts of the city, but it was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack.

The bomb detonated near one of the few large protest sites remaining, leaving a trail of blood near the huge Central World shopping mall, much of it in front of a shop selling tee-shirts emblazoned “Land of Smile”.

Three children suffered serious head injuries, Erawan Medical Center, which monitors Bangkok hospitals, said. One died.

"A 40-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy died and 22 people were injured," the Erawan emergency centre said in an update on its website.

Third party involvement?

The crisis pits mostly middle-class anti-government protesters from Bangkok and the south against supporters of Yingluck from the rural north and northeast of the country.

Both sides have blamed the other for instigating violence. Armed provocateurs have a history of trying to stir-up tension in politically polarised Thailand and both protesters and the police have also blamed violence on shadowy third parties.

Leaders of the pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) had vowed to “deal with” anti-government leader Suthep Thaugsuban, setting the scene for possible confrontation between pro- and anti-government groups.

“This fight will be harder than any other ... You must think how we can deal with Suthep and those supporting him,” Jatuporn Prompan, a UDD leader and senior member of the ruling Puea Thai Party, told thousands of cheering supporters in Nakhon Ratchasima, northeast of the capital.

It was unclear whether Jatuporn was calling for an armed struggle, but he was speaking just hours after gunmen shot at an anti-government protest stage and threw explosive devices in the Khao Saming district of the eastern province of Trat, killing a five-year-old girl and wounding 41 people.

Weeks of protests

Anti-government protesters have blocked main Bangkok intersections for weeks with tents, tyres and sandbags, seeking to unseat Yingluck and halt the influence of her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, an ousted former premier regarded by many as the real power behind the government.

The protests are the biggest since deadly political unrest in 2010, when Thaksin’s “red shirt” supporters paralysed Bangkok in an attempt to remove a government led by the Democrat Party, now the opposition.

More than 90 people were killed and 2,000 wounded when Suthep, at the time a deputy prime minister, sent in troops.

Presenting a further headache for Yingluck, Thailand’s anti-corruption body filed charges against her last week over a rice subsidy scheme that has left hundreds of farmers, her natural backers, unpaid.

Yingluck is due to hear the charges on Thursday.

Thanawut Wichaidit, a spokesman for the UDD, said a strategy to counter anti-government protests in Bangkok had yet to be worked out, but that the movement wanted to avoid civil war.

“We want to fight peacefully, without weapons, but we have not yet decided how we will proceed and that is why we are meeting today to come up with a plan,” Thanawut said.

“The thing we are trying to avoid at all costs is a civil war and any kind of confrontation.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

 

Date created : 2014-02-23

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