Deadly attack on Thai protest site in Bangkok
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Three people were killed and at least 22 wounded on Thursday in an explosion near an anti-government protest site in the Thai capital of Bangkok, police said, amid the latest political violence to hit Bangkok over the last six months.
A doctor at a Bangkok emergency centre said the wounded had been hit by shrapnel.
The city’s Erawan Medical Center, which tracks casualties, said 22 people were also wounded in the pre-dawn assault near the city’s Democracy Monument, where protesters are camping out.
It was the most serious incident in long-running protests since five people were killed and dozens wounded in clashes on February 18, when police made their most determined effort to clear demonstrators.
Thursday’s casualties bring the toll to approximately 28 dead and 800 wounded since the latest round of protests to oust the government began in November.
Meanwhile, demonstrators broke into the city’s Air Force compound where new Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan was meeting with the Election Commission to discuss parliamentary elections scheduled for July 20. Niwatthamrong was forced to flee.
Afterward, the commission called for the vote to be postponed, possibly to early August, which it also said "may be too soon".
"The reason is because today's meeting collapsed and it affects the election timetable," Election Commission Secretary General Puchong Nutrawong said.
"The election cannot be held if protesters do not agree," he said.
The protests are the latest phase in nearly 10 years of hostility between the royalist establishment and supporters of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The crisis deepened last week when the Constitutional Court removed Thaksin's sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, for nepotism in a case that many viewed as politically motivated. Nine cabinet ministers were also dismissed.
But protesters say her removal is not enough since she wasreplaced by Niwattumrong – a caretaker premier from the ruling party.
The protesters are pushing the Senate and the nation’s courts to intervene in the crisis to install a “neutral” prime minister, but the government says that is a threat to the nation’s democratic system and would be tantamount to a judicial coup.
The protesters want to set up an unelected “people’s council” to implement still-undefined reforms to completely remove Yingluck's family’s influence from politics before any elections, which the current ruling party would likely win because of widespread support among the rural poor.
Thailand’s political crisis began in 2006, when Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Since then, there have been regular clashes between the royalist establishment and Thaksin supporters.
The army has a long record of intervening in politics but military chiefs have stayed out of this crisis, insisting that politicians must sort out the dispute. However, street violence raises the possibility of military intervention aimed at restoring order.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)