|A vendor participates in the anti-government protests in Bangkok on Sunday. (AFP)
Bangkok, Jan. 19 (Reuters): As many as 28 people were wounded, seven seriously, in explosions today at a camp of anti-government protesters in Bangkok, the latest violence in a prolonged political crisis dividing the country and threatening the Thai economy.
The explosion comes a day after the military urged both sides to settle their differences in the more than two-month long dispute, in which protesters are trying to bring down the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
“There were 28 people injured from the blast at the Victory Monument,” Suphan Srithamma, director-general of the Bangkok Emergency Medical Centre, told reporters. “Among these, seven people were seriously injured.”
Witnesses said they heard two explosions.
“The first blast I heard was from behind the stage,” said Teerawut Utakaprechanun, who told Reuters Television he had been turning out for the protests every day.
“People were looking around. I saw the security guards running after a suspect. After one minute, I heard another blast.”
On Friday night, one man was killed and 35 protesters were wounded in a grenade explosion in the capital. That takes to nine the death toll since the protests started in November.
They form the latest episode in an eight-year conflict pitting Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment against poorer, mainly rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, the self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The protesters accuse Thaksin of nepotism and corruption, and aim to eradicate the political influence of his family by altering electoral arrangements, though in ways they have not spelt out, along with other political reforms.
The firebrand leader of the anti-government protests, Suthep Thaugsuban, spent much of Sunday leading thousands in a march through Bangkok demanding that Yingluck resign, and collecting bundles of cash from supporters in the streets in what has become a trademark of his public appearances.
However, there are signs the protests against the government could be running out of steam. The government has allowed protesters to take over key buildings without confrontation and the military has so far remained neutral.
“Now all of us need to help each other in taking care of our own nation,” supreme armed forces commander Thanasak Patimapakorn said.