One Killed, 22 Wounded in Bangkok Blast

BANGKOK ~ One Thai protester was killed and 22 wounded on Thursday in a blast at a Bangkok demonstration site, police said, raising fears that political violence is resuming after a brief lull for a royal funeral.

The explosion hit at 3:28am in front of a stage at the prime minister’s Government House offices, which anti-government protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have occupied since late August.

Thailand has been gripped by escalating political turmoil since May when the PAD began their protests, but there was a respite for the six-day funeral of Princess Galyani, late sister of the deeply-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The elaborate cremation ceremonies ended Wednesday evening, and within hours the blast hit at the sprawling Bangkok protest site where hundreds of people are camped out in a fortified tented city.

“It’s a powerful bomb, so far one has died. We are still waiting for forensic officials and for PAD permission to go into Government House,” local police commander Colonel Somchai Chueyklin told the AFP newswire.

Twenty-three demonstrators – 12 men and 11 women – wounded by the explosion were taken to four nearby hospitals, emergency services said. One 48-year-old man later died. Three people have been discharged, they said.

The PAD’s website said that an M-79 rocket-propelled grenade caused the blast, although police were not immediately able to confirm the information.

The protesters have vowed not to leave Government House until the government elected last December – which they accuse of being corrupt and a proxy for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra – steps down.

At the Government House compound, PAD announcers took to the stage and vowed retaliation for Thursday’s incident.

“This will be the last bomb attack on us – the next one will be on our opponents,” PAD spokeswoman Anchalee Paireerak told protesters.

The months-long standoff between the government and the PAD erupted into bloodshed on October 7 when police fired tear gas at the demonstrators, sparking clashes that left two people dead and nearly 500 injured.

A number of small blasts have rocked the PAD protest camps in the weeks since the bloody street battles, injuring several people.

Police, meanwhile, have said the PAD’s personal militia – known as the “Srivijaya Warriors” who guard the protest camp – are armed, and two people have been shot after rows near the occupied compound in central Bangkok.

Thaksin, who was ousted in an military coup in 2006 and is living in exile to avoid corruption charges, is set to make a telephone address to his supporters next month, which could further inflame the situation.

The former leader made a similar address on November 1, denouncing his opponents to 90,000 loyal supporters packed into a Bangkok sports stadium.

Current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin’s brother-in-law, said last week that he was considering building a new headquarters in Bangkok because of the siege of Government House.

Somchai has been working with his cabinet from an abandoned airport terminal since demonstrators seized his offices in August.

Thailand has been in crisis since telecoms multi-millionaire Thaksin was ousted, following protests that were also led by the PAD.

Thaksin’s allies in the People Power Party won elections in December, angering the old power cliques in the palace, military and bureaucracy who tried to rid Thailand of Thaksin’s influence.

Parliament elected Somchai as prime minister on September 17 after his predecessor Samak Sundaravej was forced from office by a court that ruled he had been illegally paid for hosting TV cooking shows.

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