Dozens of people were wounded in Thailand's capital yesterday when a grenade was hurled at anti-government demonstrators marching through Bangkok at midday, an ominous development that raises tensions in the country's political crisis and the spectre of more bloodshed to come.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was in the procession but was not wounded when the explosive device was thrown into a truck driven by demonstrators that was several dozen metres ahead, spokesman Akanat Promphan said. The city's emergency services centre put the number of injured at 31.
Police said the grenade was hurled from a nearby building.
Television footage showed several people lying on the ground as ambulances rushed away the wounded.
Thailand has been wracked by repeated bouts of unrest since the military ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 amid charges of corruption and alleged disrespect for the monarchy. The crisis boiled over again late last year after the ruling party attempted to push through an amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return from exile.
Anti-government demonstrators seeking to oust Thaksin's sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, have taken over seven key roads and overpasses in Bangkok this week, blocking them off with sandbag walls and steel barricades.
"Yingluck must take responsibility," one of the protest leaders, Satit Wonghnongtaey, said soon after the blast. "This government, Yingluck and 'Red Shirt' thugs are creating violence," he said, referring to a rival pro-Thaksin protest movement, whose rallies in 2010 were suppressed in a bloody military crackdown.
The government and the red shirts denied the claim, saying the protesters were trying to incite violence. "A movement has been set up to create a situation of bomb attacks against leaders' houses and protesters," Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.
The protests, which are also aimed at derailing February 2 elections, have been peaceful. But small acts of violence have been reported, including shooting attacks at protest venues and small explosives hurled at the homes of top protest supporters. It is unclear who is behind them.
Prolonged violence, even on a small scale, increases the risk of a military coup, which would benefit the protest movement.
On Thursday, two motorcycle-riding men drove past the residence of Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra and hurled a grenade inside, according to police. Sukhumbhand was not home and no injuries or serious damage were reported.
The attack was similar to another grenade attack on the home of Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former Democrat prime minister whose party lost to Yingluck's in a 2011 vote.
Bomb hits Thai protest march
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse