Three people were killed, including two children, and more than 50 injured at anti-government protests in Thailand over the weekend as the country’s protracted power struggle gave rise to more violence.
Two attacks – one Saturday in an eastern province bordering Cambodia and the second Sunday in one of the busiest shopping areas of Bangkok – were carried out with what the authorities said were military-grade weapons, including grenades.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra condemned the attacks as “terrorist acts for political gains,” while protesters issued a statement saying the attacks were an attempt to justify the continuation of emergency security measures imposed last month. Protest leaders said the government would be “soon destroyed by the hands of the great mass of people.”
The explosions Sunday, which wounded 22 people, occurred near a major intersection that protesters had blocked for several weeks.
A grenade was also apparently thrown at a courthouse in Bangkok on Sunday, but it failed to detonate.
The protest movement, which is seeking to overthrow Yingluck’s administration and appoint an interim government, is allied with shadowy armed groups that fought gunbattles with the police last week.
A UN statement issued after that round of violence said it was “alarming that armed clashes with high-powered weaponry can occur in the middle of Bangkok” and called on both sides to “dissociate themselves from armed groups.”
The protest leaders, who have repeatedly said they are unwilling to negotiate with the government, were emboldened last week by a controversial court ruling that sharply curtailed the powers of the authorities and barred them from dispersing demonstrators.
The court decision, which said protesters had a constitutional right to demonstrate and block roads, angered government supporters, including the Red Shirts, who held a meeting in a northeastern province Sunday.
In the wake of the court’s decision, protest leaders and officials from the governing party have issued strident warnings to their opponents in recent days.
Suthep Thaugsuban, the main leader of the protest movement, warned the Red Shirts that they would be “served popcorn” if they came too close to protesters, a reference to a gunman allied with the protest movement who this month fired an assault weapon at government supporters and partly concealed the weapon inside a bag of corn seed.
Charupong Ruangsuwan, the leader of Pheu Thai, the governing party, told the gathering of Red Shirts on Sunday that in the “fight this time death will be real.”
Charupong, who is also the interior minister, said 10 million guns were registered in Thailand. “These are guns for self-defense,” he said. “If anyone underestimates the power of the people, you’ll know about it. I believe that we must be prepared to enter a decisive situation.”