Two Thai soldiers were wounded last night in what appeared to be a gun and grenade attack in Bangkok near the besieged Government House, as groups both supporting and opposing the government demonstrated in the city.
The soldiers suffered chest wounds after noises that sounded like gun shots and a grenade blast near Benchamabophit temple, Bangkok Emergency Medical Service said today on its website. Army Commander Apirat Kongsompong said the soldiers are off the danger list.
More than 100,000 supporters of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra rallied peacefully in Bangkok in a show of support for the government, said Lieutenant General Paradon Patanatabutr, adviser to the Center for Maintaining Peace and Order. Anti-government groups have been protesting in the city since October, demanding Yingluck’s replacement with a temporary unelected government.
The anti-government protesters will continue their occupation of Government House and the Ministry of Interior, Suthep Thaugsuban, the group’s leader, said yesterday. The demonstrators won’t disrupt the work of other ministries, Suthep told his supporters.
The pro-Yingluck United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship worked with authorities to prepare security for the rally, Jatuporn Prompan, the leader of the group that’s also known as the Red Shirts, said April 4. When the Red Shirts last rallied in Bangkok in late November they were confronted by anti-government protesters, sparking violence that killed four people.
Since November, 24 people have died and 779 have been hurt in clashes between the anti-government protesters and security forces, the Bangkok Emergency Medical Service said on its website.
In addition to the street protests, Yingluck faces multiple legal challenges that could see her removed from office in the coming weeks, including one involving alleged graft in a rice subsidy program in which the government spent 689 billion baht ($21 billion) over two years to boost rural incomes.
Yingluck’s Red Shirt supporters, many from the farming heartlands of the north and northeast, say the cases against the government are part of a plot by the nation’s elite to provoke a constitutional crisis that would allow for the appointment of an unelected prime minister.
They accuse the courts of bias and double standards, pointing to the case of protest leader Suthep, who faces murder charges for allowing the military when he was deputy prime minister to use live ammunition to clear the streets of protesting Red Shirts. Suthep has repeatedly delayed his court appearances.
Suthep’s protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives abroad to avoid jail for a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated. They say no elections can be held until an appointed government reforms the political system to rid it of what they say is Thaksin’s corrupting influence.
Thaksin or his allies have won every national election held since 2001. A Feb. 2 ballot that was boycotted by the main opposition party was nullified by a court last month on the grounds that voting didn’t take place on a single day, something that wasn’t possible in some areas due to blockades Security forces will continue monitoring the situation as both the pro-Yingluck and anti-government protesters plan major rallies after Thai New Year in the middle of April, General Paradon said.
“The situation in Thailand is coming to another crescendo as the judiciary and so-called independent institutions make a concerted effort to defeat Yingluck and her government prior to any rescheduled elections,” said Kevin Hewison, director of the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University in Perth. “A really big Red Shirt demonstration may cause some of the conservative and royalist factions to pause and reflect on the ramifications of their actions.”