Thai grenade attacks raise tensions

BANGKOK: Thailand today tightened security after two grenades exploded outside branches of the country’s biggest bank in a suspected reaction to a court verdict against deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Unidentified attackers fired four grenades at branches of Bangkok Bank late yesterday after judges confiscated 1.4 billion dollars of the fugitive tycoon’s wealth the day before. Two of the grenades detonated, causing damage but no casualties.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he had asked troops to help provide extra security across the country following the attacks, but was not enacting harsh security laws as the government had threatened.

“The bomb incidents were expected after the verdict. They are the actions of a small group of people who want to create unrest,” Abhisit said in his weekly television broadcast.

He said police and soldiers were monitoring at checkpoints and that the government would install more closed-circuit television cameras.

“Our society is in a challenging situation right now,” the

premier added.

The attacks came just over a week after Thaksin’s supporters, known as the “Red Shirts”,

surrounded Bangkok Bank’s headquarters and forced it

to close for the day.

They said the bank had links to chief royal adviser and former prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda, whom they accuse of masterminding the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin.

The first blast shattered the windows and doors of a branch in the Silom business district and the second caused similar damage and wrecked telephone booths in Samut Prakarn, on the outskirts of the capital.

Another two unexploded grenades were defused at other branches.

Police have boosted security at 14 branches of Bangkok Bank in the capital and at government offices and the homes of ministers and judges, acting city police chief General Pateep Tanprasert said after a security meeting.

Tanprasert’s deputy Anand Srihirun told reporters the attackers had used M67 grenade launchers in all four incidents, adding: “It is believed that the suspects were from the same group, however we need to see more evidence.” Red Shirt spokesman Jatuporn Prompan denied any connection between his movement and the blasts, saying that the grenades were of a type commonly used by the army and police.

“What would we gain from it? We know that the government would like to create publicity and they tried to link it to us,” Jatuporn told AFP.

The government had warned of possible unrest after the verdict. Thailand’s bitter political divide in the four years since the coup has been reflected in a number of violent incidents.

The Red Shirts have said they will hold a mass rally in Bangkok in mid-March, although they have promised that their campaign against Abhisit’s government will be non-violent.