Grenade attack, rebellious north deepen Thai crisis

A grenade attack on the home of a senior Thai politician and acts of defiance in the provinces deepened fears on Monday over civil conflict after the Prime Minister rejected demands by anti-government protesters.

Bangkok: A grenade attack on the home of a senior Thai politician and acts of defiance in the provinces deepened fears on Monday over civil conflict after the Prime Minister rejected demands by anti-government protesters.

Protesters fortified a sprawling encampment in Bangkok`s main shopping district and urged supporters in northern regions to block convoys of police and soldiers from travelling to the capital, adding to a growing sense of lawlessness.

"We believe the threat of a crackdown is high," Nattawut Saikua, a protest leader, said from a stage in the shopping district where at least 8,000 people sang and listened to speeches through the night on Monday.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Saturday rejected a proposal by the protesters to call elections in 30 days and hold a vote 60 days later, dashing hopes for an end to the seven-week standoff that has paralysed Bangkok and killed 26 people.

Brave bargain hunters bought Thai stocks, pushing the local index up 1.6 percent to outperform most Asian markets, but brokers described the rise as fragile and said the risk of violence would likely make trading choppy in days ahead.

A grenade was hurled late on Sunday at a police post near the home of Banharn Silapa-Archa, chief adviser to the Chart Thai Pattana Party, wounding at least 11 people, a medical centre said.

Banharn is a former prime minister who has switched allegiance regularly throughout his career. Protesters have called for his party and other governing coalition partners to abandon Abhisit`s Democrats to force fresh elections.

Acts of defiance

The mostly rural and urban poor "red shirts" are showing signs of defiance in their northern strongholds, another headache for the Oxford-educated Abhisit, who faces pressure from upper-class and royalist Thais to take a hardline with them.

In northern Pathum Thani province bordering Bangkok, protesters planned a new blockade at a major highway, a day after they used a truck and metal barricades to stop a convoy of hundreds of policemen from entering the capital.

The police retreated late on Sunday, apparently to avoid a confrontation. Similar blockades were being formed in northeastern Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.

Red shirts say they thwarted a military crackdown on their encampment in central Bangkok after supporters turned out in force on Sunday night. The Army chief has said repeatedly a crackdown would do more harm than good.

Any attempt to disperse them risks heavy casualties and the prospect of clashes spilling into high-end residential areas, which are slowly emptying of residents and workers as shops close and apartment building owners tighten security.

Bureau Report

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