One killed, 75 injured as five grenades are fired targeting pro-govt group; reds insist they're not responsible; 5 of 6 suspects apprehended are released
Five grenades were fired from M-79 launchers at BTS Saladaeng station and nearby areas last night from unknown launch sites, killing a Thai woman and injuring 75 others including three foreigners, officials said. Ten are
in serious condition.
However, Deputy Premier Suthep Thaugsuban reported three deaths from yesterday's attacks.
Whether the attacks in the heart of Bangkok will deter the anti-red movement, the so-called multicoloured demonstrators, who are planning their biggest rally at the Royal Plaza today remains to be seen. But the Abhisit government was dealt another major blow less than two weeks after the April 10 bloodshed.
All five grenades apparently targeted Silom residents and vendors who had gathered under the BTS station to confront the red-shirt protesters camping across the street behind fences made of bamboo.
Tension rose early in the evening as the multicoloured protesters chanted taunts and yelled at the red shirts to "get out" of their Rajprasong rally site. Unlike Wednesday night when they countered the taunts and traded projectiles with the multicoloured protesters, the red shirts were restrained yesterday, staying behind their barricades.
In a television interview, Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations, confirmed that all five grenades were fired from M-79 launchers.
The spokesman said later in an interview with Thai PBS that the first three rounds landed on the BTS Skytrain station, the fourth on the skywalk under the station, and the fifth in front of the Bank of Ayudhya branch.
He said dispersal of the red shirts during night time was not possible.
Sansern said the grenades were not fired from high positions but possibly from Lumpini Park or from a red-shirt stage close to the Saladaeng intersection.
He added that soldiers were not holding their rifles in high positions but were standing on guard and trying to locate the launch sites.
Soldiers apprehended six men suspected of being involved in the attack, including one inactive military officer. The suspects were taken to Thung Maha Mek police station. They were found inside Robinson Silom building.
After being photographed and questioned by police, five of them were released. One will be handed over to the military for further questioning. A later report said all the six men were civilians.
The first attack took place at around 8pm. Two more explosions were heard at around 9.30 pm and 9.45pm, according to a Thai PBS report, but there were no media reports or official confirmation.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called an emergency meeting of security officials.
Suthep said in a television address that the launch site was located behind the statues of King Rama VI to the south of Lumpini Park. He called on Silom residents to stay beyond the 400-metre effective range of the M-79 grenade launchers.
Suthep did not mention the Robinson arrests, which would have explained how the suspects were allegedly involved in the attacks.
When police made an effort to push back the Silom residents, they were scolded by the angry mob and took hails of missiles from them when they refused to retreat. The group earlier threw stones at city administration trucks, which beamed the spotlight at them, driving them back after breaking some lights.
Citing intelligence reports, Abhisit said in the evening before the attacks that the armed men in black, who had blended in with the red shirts during the April 10 violent clashes, were now dressed in white, and that it was not easy to separate women and children among the demonstrators in case crowd dispersal was needed. At around 9.40pm, repeated loud bangs were heard among red shirts prompting a hurray from Silom residents. It turned out later that the red shirts had lit firecrackers to celebrate the attacks on the Silom residents.
The BTS Skytrain service was closed from Siam, Rajdamri, and Saladaeng stations, while the MRT underground train shut its service from Khlong Toei to Hua Lamphong stations.
About 30 people have been injured in clashes and the throwing of objects between the two groups in the three days since the confrontations began on Monday.
Of the injured, 20 are receiving treatment at Chulalongkorn Hospital, three of whom are in a serious conditions; another 18 are at Lertsin Hospital, two of them serious, while 31 have been admitted to Bangkok Christian Hospital, five of them seriously. The remaining have been admitted to Phra Mongkutklao, BNH, Saint Louis and the Police General Hospitals.
Natthanan Kaengmai, 47, a Silom resident, said she suffered a head injury during the first three attacks. She suddenly felt blood flowing and called her son to take her to a hospital.