News / Asia

Blast Hits Thai Anti-Government Protesters

Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok, Jan. 17, 2014.
Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok, Jan. 17, 2014.
VOA News
An explosive device wounded 28 anti-government protesters in the Thai capital on Friday and other violence was reported after several days of relative calm when the movement appeared to be running out of steam.
 
Police said the device was thrown at protesters marching with their leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, near Chulalongkorn University in the city center. The estimate of the number of injured came from the Erawan Medical Center, which monitors Bangkok hospitals. Suthep was not inured.
 
After the blast, protesters broke into a building under construction near MBK shopping mall in the capital to search for those responsible for throwing the device.
 
One Bangkok resident said he saw someone he believed was responsible run into the construction site and called for police to help them search.
 
“The suspect was running up into the building and I shouted for security guards to capture that guy. I believe that he is still in the building,” said the resident.
 
It was not immediately clear who was responsible. None of those who sustained injuries were believed to be life-threatening.

The last few nights has seen a series of drive-by shootings on protest camps; protesters blame the attacks on the government.

Protest leader Suthep is calling for an unelected people's council to replace the current government, which he claims is corrupt and engages in nepotism.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has refused to step down. She insists on holding early elections on February 2, though the opposition has said it will boycott the polls.

Until this attack, this week's protests have been peaceful, as police have largely stayed away and avoided conflict. The protesters have also not been particularly successful in shutting down the government and the city, as they had planned.

Thailand has experienced regular political turmoil in recent years. The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, remains very influential in Thailand, even though he was convicted of corruption and lives in self-imposed exile.

Yingluck's Pheu Thai party is expected to easily win the February vote, thanks to the popularity of her brother, who remains popular in part because of social welfare programs he enacted.

Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.

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