Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thailand: Update--Two Children Killed, 28 Injured When Grenade Detonates in Bangkok

According to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Associated Press, a series of deadly  grenade detonations on Sunday (February 23) killed two children and maimed at least five others as pro-government supporters vowed to confront their rivals in Bangkok, deepening Thailand’s three-month political crisis.

The latest blast in an area of central Bangkok frequented by tourists killed a five-year-old boy, a 40 year-old woman and injured 28 others.

Police said a grenade detonated near a "tuk-tuk," just meters outside the Big C department store in the Ratchaprasong area that has been occupied by protesters for weeks.

COMMENT: The Thai Army is generally extremely careful in its accountability of fragmentation grenades, yet it appears that government "surrogates" are being covertly used to strike back at the growing legions of protesters.

Ironically, as first responders arrived, a T-shirt kiosk could be seen depicting a "Land of Smiles" shirt sale.

Typical of life in Thailand, following the deadly blast, people in the area continued shopping and eating, many seemingly oblivious to the human carnage.

Foreign tourists with children were also seen in the area despite travel warnings by numerous countries to avoid protest sites. 

Coincidentally, six protesters were also injured on Friday (February 21) by a grenade that detonated in the same area.

On Saturday (February 22), a five-year-old girl was killed when gunmen attacked an anti-government rally in eastern Thailand. Almost 60 people were injured in the attacks, many seriously.

A meeting on Sunday (February 23) of some 4,000 pro-government "red shirts" agreed to mobilize opposition to anti-government protesters who have paralysed the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46. 

The decision will no doubt escalate tensions because the "red shirts" have until now kept a very low profile to avoid clashes that could provoke a military coup.

Leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), official title of the "red shirts," vowed at the meeting to “deal with” anti-government leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister who makes fiery nightly speeches calling for the toppling of the Yingluck government and the political destruction of her older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, who lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

The UDD is largely made up of rural supporters of Thaksin, a polarizing figure in Thailand who was forced from office in a 2006 military coup.

The PM, ironically, has been summoned to appear before the country’s anti-corruption commission on Thursday (February 27)  to answer allegations of negligence over a subsidy scheme for rice farmers that has cost the country billions of dollars.

Since November 2013, nineteen people have been killed and almost 800 injured as the crisis has dragged down Thailand's economy and caused a virtual collapse of the country's tourist industry.

As I have said so often in the past, the risk to foreigners in Bangkok is substantial which is why I appeal to all visitors to avoid Bangkok completely, as there are so many other tourist attractions to be seen country-wide.

The "red shirts" are planning very focused attacks on all protesters resulting in two highly-polarizing groups, the growing numbers of protesters and the "red shirts," which could potentially turn the capital upside down.

Given the unrelenting fervor of the two opposing groups, it is only a matter of time before foreign tourists are killed or seriously injured, which could be the one variable that causes the Thai military to restore order.

Finally, we should keep in mind that the military deposed then-PM Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 and could very well engage in yet  another coup in 2014 to depose both of the Shinawatras, as Yingluck is generally viewed as nothing more than a "puppet" of her older brother.