Grenade attacks raise tensions in Thailand
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Last Updated: Sunday, February 28, 2010, 18:16
  
Bangkok: Thailand tightened security Sunday after two grenades exploded outside branches of the country's biggest bank in a suspected reaction to a court verdict against deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Unidentified attackers fired four grenades at branches of Bangkok Bank late Saturday after judges confiscated 1.4 billion dollars of the fugitive tycoon's wealth the day before. Two of the grenades detonated, causing damage but no casualties.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he had asked troops to help provide extra security across the country following the attacks, but was not enacting harsh security laws as the government had threatened.

"The bomb incidents were expected after the verdict. They are the actions of a small group of people who want to create unrest," Abhisit said in his weekly television broadcast.

He said police and soldiers were monitoring at checkpoints and that the government would install more closed-circuit television cameras.

"Our society is in a challenging situation right now," the premier added.

The attacks came just over a week after Thaksin's supporters, known as the "Red Shirts", surrounded Bangkok Bank's headquarters and forced it to close for the day.

They said the bank had links to chief royal adviser and former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda, whom they accuse of masterminding the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin.

The first blast shattered the windows and doors of a branch in the Silom business district and the second caused similar damage and wrecked telephone booths in Samut Prakarn, on the outskirts of the capital.

Another two unexploded grenades were defused at other branches.

Police have boosted security at 14 branches of Bangkok Bank in the capital and at government offices and the homes of ministers and judges, acting city police chief General Pateep Tanprasert said after a security meeting.

His deputy Anand Srihirun told reporters the attackers had used M67 grenade launchers in all four incidents, adding: "It is believed that the suspects were from the same group, however we need to see more evidence."

Red Shirt spokesman Jatuporn Prompan denied any connection between his movement and the blasts, saying that the grenades were of a type commonly used by the army and police.

"What would we gain from it? We know that the government would like to create publicity and they tried to link it to us," Jatuporn said to a news agency.

The government had warned of possible unrest after the verdict. Thailand's bitter political divide in the four years since the coup has been reflected in a number of violent incidents.

The Red Shirts have said they will hold a mass rally in Bangkok in mid-March, although they have promised that their campaign against Abhisit's government will be non-violent.

Thaksin on Saturday rejected calls from the ruling party to leave the political stage, saying he would "not chicken out", and dismissed its claims that a compromise had been struck with the return of a portion of his funds.

The Supreme Court seized the money -- about 60 percent of the 2.3 billion dollars in funds belonging to Thaksin's family that were frozen after the coup -- after finding that Thaksin had abused his power while in office.

He is currently living in exile to avoid a two-year jail term for graft.

The Red Shirts, largely from Thaksin's stronghold in the nation's poor north and northeast, loved his populist policies and accuse Abhisit's government of ignoring their plight since he took power in December 2008.

The tycoon's opponents accuse Thaksin of being corrupt, dictatorial and of threatening Thailand's widely revered monarchy.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 82, who is regarded as a stabilising figure by many Thais, returned early Sunday to the hospital where he has spent the past five months after a brief outing to his palace for a private function, police said.

Bureau Report


First Published: Sunday, February 28, 2010, 18:16


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