Thailand Political Crisis Turns Fatal

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – Gunmen in a pickup truck opened fire on an anti-government protest in Thailand’s east, killing an 8-year-old girl, and wounding dozens, as violence in the country’s three-month-old political crisis spread outside the capital of Bangkok, officials said Sunday.

A protester injured in an anti-government rally arrives for treatment at a hospital in Trat Province, 300 kilometers east of Bangkok, on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

Hours later, an explosion killed two people and wounded more than 20 others near an anti-government protest in the capital of Bangkok. A boy aged 12 and a 40-year-old woman died in the attack near the Central World shopping mall, officials said. A protest leader, Sathit Wongnongtoey, said Sunday’s blast in central Bangkok was caused by a grenade.

Both supporters and opponents of the protesters, as well as police, have been victims of the political violence. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra condemned the attacks, describing them as “terrorist acts for political gain”.

The attacks are the latest in a string of protest-related violence in Thailand over the past three months, in which at least 16 people have been killed and hundreds injured. The protesters want Yingluck to step down in order to make way for an appointed interim government to implement anti-corruption reforms, but she has refused.

Thailand has been divided by violent political conflict since 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, was ousted by a military rebellion after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have since then taken to the streets for extended periods in a power struggle.

No group has yet taken claim to either attack. Jonathan Head, BBC’s reporter in Bangkok says it appears to be the start of retaliation by the armed wing of the so-called “red-shirt” movement that backs the governing Pheu Thai party.

Red-shirt leaders organized a mass gathering in north-eastern Thailand this past weekend to decide how they should fight back against the campaign to overthrow the government.

A spokesman for the protesters, Akanat Promphan, described the attacks as “a massacre of innocents” that was “planned and organized terror.”

“The authorities must quickly find those terrorists responsible. Yingluck must show responsibility. Otherwise, we can only assume the government and . . . Yingluck’s involvement in this atrocity,” he said.

Both sides in the ongoing political dispute have blamed the other for instigating violence.

For more information, please see:

The Japan News – Thai political crisis violence spreads beyond capital – 24 February 2014

BBC News – Thailand crisis: Deadly attacks on opposition rallies – 23 February 2013

The Japan Times – Two killed by grenade at Bangkok anti-government protest – 23 February 2014

BBC News – Thailand police and protesters clash fatally in Bangkok – 18 February 2014

Author: Kevin Mathewson

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