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Bomb Blast Overshadows Thai Governing Party's By-Election Victory

A weekend by-election victory by Thailand's governing Democrat Party has been overshadowed by fresh concerns of political instability after an overnight bombing in central Bangkok. The blast left one person dead and up to 10 wounded at a bus terminal near where anti-government protests were held in April and May.

No group claimed responsibility. Bangkok and more than a dozen provinces have been under a state of emergency since the protests.

The blast overshadowed a crucial by-election victory by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjaiva's governing Democrat Party over the opposition Puea Thai Party.

Analysts saw the by election as a vital test of support for the government, after the army dispersed the anti-government red-shirt protesters in late May. The clashes left 90 people dead and almost 1,900 injured.

Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharak said the election was a step forward to political normality after the recent turbulence.

"This is a vote of confidence in democracy in Thailand. So I think hopefully this will continue and provide itself in the subsequent national elections will be relatively peaceful," said Buranaj. "But of course the reconciliation process will determine whether that can be achieved and how long it will take."

The by-election winner is a former investment banker. The opposition Puea Thai Party candidate was the leader of the anti-government "Red Shirt" movement and is in prison facing charges linked to the protests

Chulalongkorn University economics professor Sompob Manarangsan said the results of the by-election underscore a sharp divide in Thai society.

"One of the very clear messages is that the opposition group of people to the government, in particular from the 'Red Shirts,' is still very strong and still very united, even with the nominee from the Puea Thai Party is still in jail," Sompob said.

The government had hoped the by-election would mark a major step towards the country stepping away from the political turbulence of April and May.

The bombing, however, has raised more questions about the country's political uncertainties, said Human Rights Watch Thailand representative Sunai Pasuk.

"All in all, having an explosion go off in the evening of an election day would raise concern about political stability in Bangkok," Sunai said. "It would raise concern - it does not matter who did it - but whether the political climate has returned to normalcy or not."

Last week, a government-established committee for political reform and reconciliation called the state of emergency to be lifted. But a government spokesman said the bombing makes the case for keeping the decree in place.