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Thai grenade attack stokes tension ahead of rally
Sun Nov 30, 2008 2:15am EST
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By Darren Schuettler
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A grenade blast wounded more than 50 anti-government protesters in Bangkok on Sunday, fuelling fears of clashes ahead of a big rally in the Thai capital planned by government supporters.
The blast occurred around midnight at Government House, the prime minister's office occupied by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) since August in a bid to topple the government.
PAD supporters are also dug in at the capital's two main airports, stranding thousands of tourists, grounding exports and threatening to further slash economic growth.
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has declared a state of emergency at the airports and given police the authority to remove the protesters, but the police said they would not use force to evict them.
"We are in a negotiation process. We want to avoid any violent confrontation. We will not use weapons," spokesman Pongsapat Pongcharoen told a news conference, adding that police wanted to avoid any loss of life or damage to property.
PAD supporters attacked police on Saturday night, forcing them further away from Suvarnabhumi international airport.
There was almost a carnival atmosphere as about 4,000 PAD supporters clad in their movement's yellow shirts roamed round the terminal or listened to a band on a stage outside.
The occasional group of PAD youths wandered through the departure hall with wooden clubs and iron rods. There were no police in sight.
The sit-ins at Suvarnabhumi and the city's domestic hub, Don Muang, are the latest escalation in the PAD's "final battle" to unseat a prime minister it accuses of being a front for former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin, who is Somchai's brother-in-law, was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives in exile.
He still has strong support among the urban and rural poor, and the pro-Thaksin Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) says it will bring 100,000 supporters to central Bangkok on Sunday afternoon in a show of support for the government.
A CONCEALED COUP
Veera Musikapong, a DAAD leader, told the Nation newspaper one focus of the rally would be the alleged bias of the courts.
The Constitutional Court has moved with uncharacteristic speed to conclude a vote fraud case on Tuesday that is widely expected to lead to the disbanding of Somchai's People Power Party (PPP) and two other partners in the ruling coalition.
"It is obvious that there is interference with justice. It was well planned, and this is a concealed coup," Veera said. Continued...
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