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Counter-Demonstrations Boost Tensions in Thai Capital


Thousands of Thai government supporters have rallied in downtown Bangkok to denounce anti-government demonstrators who are seeking to oust Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. Meanwhile, explosions at key anti-government protest sites in the Thai capital have left more than 50 people injured as political tensions continued to escalate. As Ron Corben reports, leaders of the anti-government protests have vowed to press on with the occupation ahead of a crucial court decision this week that may lead to the government's resignation.

Grenade explosions occurred late Saturday night. Unknown assailants threw the explosives into a crowded government compound protesters have occupied since late August. More than 50 people were injured.

Attacks also occurred at an anti-government television station with a second attack at the largely domestic airport of Don Muang 30 kilometers from Bangkok. At least two people have died and dozens wounded in the escalating violence of recent weeks.

The attacks have risen since the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy or PAD occupied the main international airport of Suvanabhumi last Tuesday, forcing the airport's closure. Protests then closed the Don Muang airport two days later.

Suwai, a supporter at a pro-government community radio station, says he fears for the country's future.

"I feel I am not safe and I look forward and I cannot see the future for my country," Suwai said. "We close the country at the airport, we cannot import/export. We can not do business."

PAD leaders Sunday vowed to press ahead with the protests despite crippling the multi-million dollar tourism and travel industry. Industry sources say up to one million jobs are threatened together with accumulating daily financial losses running into millions of dollars.

Efforts are underway to assist up to 100,000 stranded passengers to leave through a Vietnam-war era airport at U-Tapao, 140 kilometers southeast from Bangkok. Thousands of foreign and local passengers have descended on the airport in recent days in a bid to leave Thailand.

The national carrier, Thai Airways International, foreign embassies and Thai officials have been working throughout the day to transport as many
travelers out of the country as possible. Officials estimate the protests could cut in half the number of tourist arrivals to Thailand in 2009, to around seven
million people.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, now in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Friday declared a state of emergency in and around the two main airport terminals. Police have been attempting to negotiate with the PAD to leave the airports. Airport authorities say the earliest the terminals may open again is
Tuesday.

Areewat Wortagorn, a PAD supporter, says the situation will only be resolved with the resignation of the Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat.

"Somchai out and the government stop to work and then have a new government by the people. Then we will move out from everyplace from the airport, from Suvanabhumi," Areewat said.

On Tuesday a constitutional court is to hand down its verdict on whether Mr. Somchai's governing People's Power Party, and other coalition partners are guilty of electoral breaches. The government would be forced to dissolve parliament.

The PAD has accused Mr. Somchai, the brother-in-law of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, of remaining under Mr. Thaksin's influence. Mr. Thaksin fled Thailand in August amid charges of corruption. He was later found guilty of corruption and sentenced to two years prison.

But pro-Thaksin supporters have accused the judiciary of bias. Mr. Thaksin gained widespread popularity among the rural and urban poor for his populist economic policies. The middle class accuse him of authoritarianism and corruption.


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