Second attack on protesters in Thailand in two days injures 28

Second assault in two days against anti-government demonstrators adds to concerns of growing violence before the February 2 elections

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 6:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 2:08pm

An attack on a rally in central Bangkok yesterday left 28 people injured. It was the second assault in two days on demonstrators staging protests aimed at toppling the Thai government.

Unknown attackers have killed several people during the months-long demonstrations intended to oust the embattled government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Each side has blamed the other for the violence.

Yesterday's attack - twin blasts followed by gunshots at a busy intersection occupied by the protesters - heightened fears of growing violence before the elections called by Yingluck for February 2.

A protest leader said "an explosive device" was thrown into a crowd that was near a tent where he was sitting behind the main rally stage.

The crowd chased "suspects but one of them turned back and threw a second device", said Thavorn Senniem, adding shots were then fired before the attackers escaped on motorcycles.

Twenty-eight injured people were taken to several city hospitals after the attack, a health official said. "Seven of them are seriously injured … it's likely to be from shrapnel," Suphan Sri thamma, the head of the Department of Medical Services, said.

Watch: Attack on Bangkok anti-govt rally injures dozens

On Saturday, a gunman opened fire on anti-government protesters in Bangkok's Lad Prao district, where protesters have taken over an intersection. A 54-year-old was shot in the back and seriously wounded. He underwent surgery and was in intensive care yesterday, the Erawan Emergency Medical Centre said.

The shooting took place about 300 metres from a protest stage, police Colonel Komsak Sumangkaset said. The wounded man was a volunteer guard at a barricade tasked with checking vehicles and people entering the protest area, he said.

Joining a march across another part of the city yesterday, another protest leader urged supporters not to be cowed by the violence.

"It [the attack] is an outrage. We would like you to come out and join our fight. ... If we don't fight, we will fall in to become Thaksin's slaves," Akanat Promphan told marchers.

Thailand has been rocked by bouts of bloody unrest since just before a 2006 military coup that ousted then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He now lives in self-exile overseas to avoid a jail term for corruption.

His younger sister, Yingluck, has clung on to power through more than two months of street rallies aimed at forcing her elected government from office and installing an unelected "people's council".

She has called the elections despite a vow by the main opposition party to boycott them and threats from the protesters to disrupt the polls.

The demonstrators have staged a self-styled "shutdown" of the city since last Monday, erecting roadblocks and rally stages at several intersections.

The demonstrators are urging the military and independent institutions to bolster their attempt to block the election, which Yingluck is again expected to win.

Observers say widespread violence could prompt intervention by the powerful army in a nation which has seen numerous attempted or successful coups since it abandoned absolute monarchy in 1932.

"Puea Thai is very concerned [about the violence]," Thaksin's legal adviser Noppadon Pattama said, referring to the ruling party. "We condemn the use of violence."

On Friday one protester died and dozens were injured in a blast at an anti-government march in the city.

Police yesterday said they were hunting two suspects captured on CCTV footage leaving the scene of Friday's attack after joining the march.

Additional reporting by Associated Press