Blasts rock Bangkok: Asia’s easy-going city tenses
Bangkok’s reputation as an open, easy-going city was further damaged today when explosions at an anti-government rally wounded at least 28 people. The attacks are linked to a long-running political crisis in Thailand which shows every sign of intensifying in the days and weeks to come.
Police said two fragmentation grenades were detonated at an intersection near Victory Monument, just north of the city. Protesters have blocked a number of city crossroads as part of their attempt to shutdown Bangkok and put pressure of the government to resign. A similar attack killed one man and wounded dozens of others on Friday. On Saturday, one protestor was shot in the back and seriously wounded.
A ‘people’s coup’
Anti-government demonstrators accuse the current Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra and her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra of corruption and abuse of power and are attempting to orchestrate what they call a “peoples’ coup”. Tens of thousands of disgruntled Thais have taken part, made up for the most part by Bangkok’s middle and upper classes and people bussed in from southern Thailand.
Last Monday, they managed to paralyse much of the capital, seizing seven major intersections and a number of main thoroughfares. Demonstrators erected stages with speaker systems and held large rallies. Encouraged by the response, protest leaders promised to take over the government’s ministries and even detain the Prime Minister and her cabinet ministers. As the week progressed however, the protests seemed to lose momentum with the number of demonstrators dwindling.
Non-elected council of experts
Anti-government protest leaders have been quick to blame the government and its supporters for the attacks. They argue that Yingluck has lost control and should resign. In her place, they want to set up a non-elected council of experts to reform the country before new elections can be held.
Officials in Yingluck’s administration counter that the protestors are trying to create the sort of conditions that would invite the military to intervene in the form of a coup. Many analysts think that protest leaders’ power and influence in any ‘post-coup’ settlement would be heightened, despite the fact that they represent a minority of people in Thailand.