Thai govt blames `Red Shirts` for deadly bomb attack

A blast ripped through an apartment complex in Bangkok, killing three people.

Bangkok: Thailand`s defence minister on Wednesday blamed anti-government "Red Shirts" for a bomb attack that ripped through an apartment complex on the outskirts of Bangkok, killing three people.

Tuesday`s blast -- believed to have occurred in a room on the second floor of the residential complex in Nonthaburi Province north of Bangkok -- shattered windows and damaged nearby buildings.

"It`s clear that the bombers are Red Shirt people," Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon said.

The blast came hours after authorities prolonged a controversial state of emergency in Nonthaburi and three other provinces, including Bangkok, for three more months.

"It was definitely a bomb. We cannot say what type of bomb it is yet ... But it was a massive bomb because it damaged a large area," said national police spokesman Major General Prawut Tawornsiri.

"We have found three bodies at the scene, but (the death toll) could be more. We had to stop searching as we`re afraid that the building may collapse," he said.

It was unclear whether the blast was planned.

The emergency laws were introduced in the capital in early April in response to mass anti-government rallies by the "Red Shirt" movement that ultimately left 91 people dead in clashes between demonstrators and the Army.

The rules ban public gatherings of more than five people and give security forces the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge.

"The cabinet wants to give the authorities more tools to handle the situation, which is likely to deteriorate," Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon said after the laws were prolonged.

The government has stepped up security following a string of grenade attacks in Bangkok, including a blast at a bus stop in July that killed a man.

The Red Shirts deny any involvement in the explosions and have accused the government of a conspiracy to justify tougher security powers.

The Thai government has come under pressure from the United States and rights groups to roll back the emergency powers to help the country recover from civil violence that has left it deeply divided.

Authorities have used their emergency powers to arrest hundreds of suspects and silence anti-government media.

The decision to extend the decree was taken in the absence of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has left his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban in charge while he attends an Asia-Europe summit in Brussels this week.

Rights group Amnesty International said last week the rules "flout international human rights law and standards".

"As a result, the extraordinary powers they grant to curtail human rights have often been abused to block the expression of peaceful dissenting views," it said.

The two-month rally by the Reds, many of whom back fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, attracted up to 100,000 people demanding immediate elections, but was broken up by the army on May 19.

After the crackdown enraged protesters set dozens of major buildings ablaze in the heart of Bangkok, including a shopping mall and the stock exchange.

About 6,000 Red Shirts held a peaceful gathering in the heart of Bangkok last month to mark four years since the coup which ousted Thaksin, and to commemorate those slain in the May crackdown on their protests.

The mainly poor and working-class Reds largely support Thaksin for his populist policies when in power, and their April and May rallies demanded snap elections, accusing the current government of being elitist and undemocratic.

Bureau Report