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Grenade attacks rattle Thailand's capital in anti-government protests

07:16 AM CDT on Friday, April 23, 2010

Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand – Security forces and agitated protesters faced off at a major intersection early today after bloody grenade attacks rattled Thailand's chaotic capital – a scene of tense, weekslong confrontations between die-hard demonstrators and a wavering government.

The late-night attacks killed at least one person and wounded 86, according to the government's Erawan Emergency Center, which handles victim counts in crises and disasters. Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had said three had died. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.

Thaugsuban said attackers shot five M-79 grenades from a nearby area where the anti-government demonstrators are encamped. But his televised statement stopped short of directly blaming the protesters.

"The government wants to offer condolences to the wounded," said Thaugsuban, who asked people to leave the area for their safety. "We have assigned more troops to the area because we are concerned of more clashes."

Anti-government demonstrators, known as "Red Shirts" for the color of their apparel, have occupied parts of downtown Bangkok for the last six weeks demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down, dissolve parliament and leave the country.

Many of the protesters, from rural and working-class towns, support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006 amid corruption allegations. They decry the Abhisit administration as illegitimate, given that it came to power after a parliamentary rather than a popular vote.

Opposing them are the "Yellow Shirts." Closely aligned with the monarchy, the army and other centers of power, they favor keeping things largely the way they are.

A third group, less passionate about the political wrangling and underlying class struggle, feels inconvenienced by the shuttered shopping centers, the chilling of tourism, and the hit that the nation's reputation is taking globally.

In a previous outburst of violence, 25 people were killed and more than 800 wounded on April 10.

Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press

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