- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

BANGKOK | A pre-dawn grenade attack on protesters occupying the offices of Thailand’s prime minister killed one person and wounded 29 on Thursday, dimming hopes that the country’s fractious political crisis might ease.

No one took responsibility for the blast, but the protest group, which calls itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy, blamed the government, a charge that the prime minister denied.

The alliance, which is seeking the government’s resignation, said it would stage a mass rally before marching to parliament on Sunday to protest the attack.

The last time the group marched on parliament, street battles with police left two dead and hundreds wounded. The Oct. 7 clashes were the country’s worst political violence in more than a decade.

Thursday’s attack was the first fatal one at the compound since it was seized by the protesters three months ago. It came just hours after the end of a six-day mourning period for the sister of Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Political protests were suspended during the period, but the peace and unity inspired by near-universal respect for the monarchy proved to be temporary.

The explosion occurred shortly after 3 a.m. when a grenade landed on a tent sheltering dozens of people, said Amorn Amornratamanon, a protest leader.

Surachet Sathitniramai, the director of the Narenthorn Medical Center, said a 48-year-old man died from a shrapnel wound to the throat. Twenty-nine people were wounded, four of whom were hospitalized, he said.

The protesters have vowed not to leave the grounds of Government House until the allies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they accuse of corruption, are removed from power. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is Mr. Thaksin’s former brother-in-law.

Mr. Thaksin’s critics fear that he wishes to stage a comeback with the government’s help, despite being ousted by a 2006 military coup. Mr. Thaksin is in self-imposed exile to avoid jail on a conflict-of-interest conviction.

The prospect of Mr. Thaksin’s supporters and opponents asserting themselves anew threatens to extend a political crisis that began when the alliance in early 2006 first called for Mr. Thaksin to step down.

Bangkok Police Chief Gen. Jongrak Jutanond said he did not know who was behind Thursday’s blast, but top protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul blamed the authorities.

“The police chief, the metropolitan police chief and many other policemen collaborated and conspired with the government to kill civilians who are using their constitutional rights to protect the throne, the interests of the country and the people,” he said.



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