Explosions rock Bangkok

BANGKOK: At least three died and 75 people were hurt after a series of explosions that hit Bangkok as political tension rose ahead of a planned massive anti-Thaksin rally today.

The first three explosions went off slightly after 8pm Bangkok time at the Sala Daeng skytrain station just a few metres from where the pro-government supporters were having a shouting match with the anti-government Red Shirts.

Two people were injured, one a Thai and the other a foreigner. Soldiers had been stationed at the skytrain station since Monday when the Red Shirts announced that they had planned to march to Silom, Bangkok’s commercial district.

About half-an-hour later, another two explosions happened where the hundreds of pro-government supporters had gathered, injuring dozens. The blast broke the window of the Au Bon Pan Bakery on the road.

The explosions were caused by grenades fired from M79 grenade launchers. But it was uncertain who had fired them.

There has been rising tensions between the government and anti-government Red Shirts over the past six weeks.

The Government is trying to reclaim the Rajchaprasong district, an upmarket district which the Red Shirts has been occupying since April 4.

Hotels and shopping malls were closed in the area. The Government is under pressure from the business community and pro-government supporters to evict the Red Shirts.

The Red Shirts are on the side of the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They are calling for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down and call fresh election.

On April 10, when the Thai troops tried to evict the Red Shirts from the Rajdamnoen-Phan Fa bridge area, things turned bloody with 25 dead, including 5 soldiers and more than 800 injured.

The Red Shirts blamed the troops for the incident but the Government fought back by accusing the Red Shirts of having “terrorists” with weapons among them.

Soldiers also told of a third party, a group of well-equipped and well-trained men in black, who emerged and fired at both the Red Shirts and soldiers. - By SHAHANAAZ HABIB/The Star

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