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Terrorism & Security

Thai army leader asks prime minister to step down

Attacks on antigovernment protesters injured at least seven at Thailand's main airport and in Bangkok Wednesday.

By David Montero / November 26, 2008

Thailand's army commander has urged the government to step down and hold new elections following a series of bomb blasts on Wednesday. The plea comes as protesters entered the second day of their siege on the country's main airport, wreaking havoc on Thailand's prosperous tourism industry.

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"A blast at Bangkok's international airport and grenade attacks elsewhere in the city wounded at least seven people on Wednesday, as lawlessness spread amid antigovernment protests, officials said," according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"At least two people were wounded by a bomb blast at Suvarnabhumi this morning," Petpong Kamchornkitkarn, an emergency medical services official, told AFP.
Two local television stations said a grenade was fired at protesters and that three people were wounded.
A near simultaneous grenade attack on anti-government protesters picketing Bangkok's old Don Mueang airport, where the prime minister has set up temporary offices, wounded two more people, Petpong said.
Another three people were wounded when two grenades were tossed into a crowd of pro-government supporters on a road to Don Mueang, the site of a clash between rival activists that left 11 hurt on Tuesday, police said.

Amid the violence, Thailand's influential army commander has told the government it should call a new election to end the crisis, the Associated Press (AP) reported Wednesday.

"The government should give the public a chance to decide in a fresh election," Gen. Anupong Paochinda said at a news conference after meeting with high-level government officials, academics, economists and security officials.

The general told protesters at a news conference that a military coup "would not resolve the deepening political turmoil in Thailand," England's Guardian newspaper reports.

"We are not pressuring the government," Anupong said....
"If a coup could end all the troubles, I would do it. It is not going to resolve anything," he said.

The Thai government quickly "rejected the army chief's plea," Reuters reports.

"The prime minister has said many times that he will not quit or dissolve parliament because he has been democratically elected. That still stands," [Government spokesman Nattawut Saikuar] told Channel 3 television.

The dramatic standoff follows months of intermittent protest that reached a crescendo yesterday, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

On Tuesday, members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) clashed with government supporters and continued besieging Don Muang airport, where government officials had set up a temporary office. They also swarmed Thailand's main international airport and blocked the road to it in anticipation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's return Wednesday, forcing all departing flights to be suspended.

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