BANGKOK (AP) — Explosions and an overnight shooting attack on opposition demonstrators in Thailand’s capital killed at least two people Thursday, the latest spasm of violence to hit Bangkok since protesters launched a campaign to oust the government six months ago.
At least 22 people were also wounded in the assaults before dawn near the city’s Democracy Monument, where some protesters are camping out, according to the city’s Erawan Medical Center, which tracks casualties.
The attack brings the nationwide toll since protests began last November to 27 dead and 800 wounded.
Police Col. Krailert Buakaew said at least three grenades were detonated and machine-guns were fired at protesters in the small encampment. He said the dead included one sleeping protester and a volunteer guard. He said investigators are collecting evidence but have so far found only puddles of blood at the scene.
Oyjai Suangchaiyaphum, a 55-year-old protester who was sleeping at the base of Democracy Monument, said that attackers fired at least two grenades and an automatic weapon toward their encampment. Oyjai was lightly wounded in the leg by shrapnel, but medics treated her at the spot.
Thailand’s political crisis deepened last week when the Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for nepotism along with nine Cabinet members in a case that many viewed as politically motivated. Protesters say Yingluck’s removal is not enough, though. She was simply replaced by a caretaker premier from the ruling party, Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan.
The protesters are pushing the Senate and the nation’s courts to intervene in the crisis to install a “neutral” prime minister, but the government says that is a threat to the nation’s democratic system and would be tantamount to a judicial coup.
The protesters cannot win at the polls and are opposed to elections without political reform. They want to set up an unelected “people’s council” to implement still-undefined changes to completely remove Yingluck’s family influence from politics before any polls take place, which the current ruling party would likely win because of widespread support among the rural poor.
Thailand’s political crisis began in 2006, when Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, remains highly popular among the poor in Thailand’s north and northeast, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001. The anti-government protesters, aligned with the opposition Democrat Party and backed by the country’s traditional elites, say they want to remove all traces of his political machine from politics.