At least 3 people have been killed and more than 70 people were injured after bombs were set off in Bangkok's financial district during a rally by people opposed to anti-government demonstrations in central Bangkok. The explosions follow an earlier warning by the Thai army for demonstrators occupying a key intersection to leave a rally site.
Ambulance and medical staff were quickly on the scene after several explosives were set off in the main financial district of Silom Road in central Bangkok. Several thousand people opposing the six-weeks of anti-government protests were rallying less than 100 meters from fortified anti-government barricades.
There were also reports of smaller explosives closer to an anti-government rally site.
People were taken by ambulances in Silom Road to nearby hospitals.
Somchai, a businessman from Silom Road, said he fears a greater loss of life than in a recent April 10 clash between anti-government protesters and security forces that left 24 dead and more than 800 injured.
"I think we are going to have some loss of life and could be many at this time," he said. "On the 10th of this month we lost 24 or 25 people. And it could be worse this time in a few days, that is what I believe.
The protesters, led by the United Democratic Front against Dictatorship have been camped in the Rajaprasong retail and tourist district, leading to the closure of scores of businesses at the cost of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
But UDD leaders have been defiant. Red shirt wearing UDD protesters have built barricades and stockpiled sharpened bamboo sticks and broken paving stones. The military says it will use tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, if necessary. The Thai military warned protesters to leave the rally area.
The protests began five weeks ago in support of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006. Protesters say the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is illegitimate, because it came to power through court rulings that removed pro-Thaksin prime ministers.
But a member of the governing Democrat Party, Kraisak Choonhavan, says UDD leaders are using protesters in a bid to overthrow the government.
"One cannot interpret this situation in any other way but is a direct provocation using the people as pawns, if you like the old saying of 'cannon fodder', in order to overthrow the government. And, this is really unfortunate. We have never faced such a situation before," he said.
Growing frustrations by local business and residents in Bangkok have led to brief clashes with red shirts near barricades in central Bangkok.
The United States has urged both sides to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis, saying violence is not a solution to the political challenge.
Negotiations last month ended in failure, after a government offer for elections in nine months was dismissed by UDD leaders who call for immediate polls.