Bangkok grenade attack wounds scores in Thai protests
Rocket-propelled grenades injured more than 80 government supporters at Thai protests Thursday evening. The antigovernment Red Shirts denied responsibility for the attack, though the M-79 grenades were reportedly fired from near their camp.
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Several explosions in Thailand’s capital, reportedly caused by rocket-propelled grenades, erupted amid crowds of government supporters at a rally late Thursday evening. The attacks killed at least one person and wounded 86, and left the Thai capital locked in panic.
The explosions came as thousands of antigovernment protesters faced off against security forces in Bangkok in the latest in two months of tense showdowns.
The incident brought messages of concern from the United Nations, while the governments of the US, Great Britain, and Australia warned citizens against any but essential travel to Thailand. By Friday morning, Bangkok’s otherwise vibrant financial district was reported to be shuttered, with streets largely deserted.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for Thursday’s attacks, which the government blamed on unnamed "terrorists" – stopping short of naming the so-called Red Shirt antigovernment protesters whose demonstrations have intermittently paralyzed the Thai capital for six weeks now. Red Shirt demonstrators quickly denied responsibility.
The Red Shirts consist mainly of poor rural supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed the military coup that ousted him in 2006 after months of demonstrations by the Yellow Shirts.
The Red Shirts believe the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is illegitimate because it came to power under military pressure through a parliamentary vote after disputed court rulings ousted two elected pro-Thaksin governments. They want Parliament dissolved and new elections held.
The explosions were the culmination of an already tense day. Thousands of Red Shirt demonstrators had turned the financial district into a lockdown zone, erecting tents and barricades from tires and cement blocks, The New York Times reports. On the other side of the barricades, security forces and military personnel gathered in force, while pro-government demonstrators shouted and waves pro-government flags.