Security forces and agitated protesters faced off at a major intersection Friday after bloody grenade attacks rattled Thailand’s chaotic capital — a scene of tense, weekslong confrontations between die-hard demonstrators and a wavering government.
The late-night attacks killed at least one person and wounded 86, according to the government’s Erawan Emergency Center, which handles victim counts in crises and disasters. Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had said three had died. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.
The attackers shot five M-79 grenades from near where anti-government Red Shirt protesters have been encamped and the blasts struck areas where counter-demonstrators have gathered, but the government stopped short of directly blaming the Red Shirts for the attack.
Thousands of mostly rural Red Shirts have been entrenched on Bangkok’s streets since March 12 in a campaign to dissolve Parliament and hold immediate elections, and Thailand’s powerful military has warned them that time is running out to clear the streets or face a crackdown.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern that the situation could escalate and called for dialogue, his spokesman said. “This is a moment requiring restraint on all sides,” spokesman Martin Nesirky quoted the UN chief as saying.
Suthep urged people who had been demonstrating against the Red Shirts to leave the area for their own safety.
Police and soldiers stood guard at the mouth of Silom Road, the capital’s financial district, while across the intersection, Red Shirts screamed slogans and brandished sharpened bamboo staves. Morning traffic on the normally jammed road was light and fewer workers were seen headed for their offices.
BP: Here is some video footage from the BTS station in Silom. You can see one injured foreigner. There were three explosions which could be heard at the BTS station just before 8pm with at least one hitting the roof of the platform. The first one wasn’t that loud, but the third one was an almighty bang. People on the platform and also inside the train hit the floor/taking cover. Would assume that the foreigner was injured when some metal from the roof fell down and hit him on the head – you can see the holes in the platform from the video footage. The army then came onto the platform as you can see and evacuated the station.
At 11:20pm, Deputy PM Suthep (he was alone and not flanked by anyone else) made a short statement to the press that M79 grenades were fired at the Silom people causing many injuries and the loss of life. The government deeply regrets what happened and has ordered the security officials to resolve the situation. The government has also sent helicopters with night-vision cameras to prevent terrorists from creating a situation again. The government is greatly concerned about the safety of the people. Suthep then asked for those on Silom to retreat saying that the M79 grenades only had a range of 400 metres and those who retreated would be safe. The M79 grenades were fired from behind the Rama 6 monument [BP: A monument on the edge of Lumpini Park and hence in the direction of the reds’ location]. Now, it is dark and it is convenient to clear the area where the M79 grenades were fired.
BP: The message of what Suthep said was clear, the reds were behind it. On the direction that the M79 grenades were fired from, oddly the anti-Thaskin ASTV Mangaer quotes a witness as stating that the M79 was fired from the fifth floor of Chulalongkorn Hospital.
NOTE: If you want to know where everything is, look at this image. Where the caption is where the BTS station is, the reds lettering is where the reds are, and that white cross is where Chulalongkorn Hospital is.
NOTE: Also, from listening to the ASTV TV report from the above link, they are not happy about the police who were shining spotlights into the Silom area (after the attacks?) Continued complaining about the police.
Britons have been warned by the UK government that they should avoid all but “essential” travel to Bangkok.
The Foreign Office gave its travel advice relating to Thailand’s capital because of the risk “that violence could break out without warning”.
BP: Expect to see other western countries either follow or update their travel advisories.
From all reports, the injuries were all bystanders or those on Silom including the anti-red multi-colored protesters. The multi-colored protesters are meant to hold a large rally on Friday. Will this spur them to come out in numbers?
Tensions are not easing in Bangkok and are certainly heightened.