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ASIA: One killed, 21 wounded in Bangkok blast

20 Nov 2008 12:50 PM

BANGKOK, Nov 20 AFP - At least one Thai anti-government protester was killed and 21 were wounded in a pre-dawn bomb blast on Thursday at a demonstration site in Bangkok, emergency services said.

The bomb went off at 3.28am (0728 AEDT) in front of a stage at the Government House compound, which protesters from the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupied in late August.

Twenty-two demonstrators wounded by the explosion were taken to four nearbyhospitals, emergency services said. One later died and 11 were still in a serious condition, they said.

"It's a powerful bomb, so far one has died. We are still waiting for forensic officials and for PAD permission to go into Government House," local police commander Colonel Somchai Chueyklin told AFP.

An emergency medical official speaking on condition of anonymity also confirmed that one man had died.

"Ten are in critical condition at (army-run) King Mongkut hospital, one serious at Ramathibodi hospital. The man died at Ramathibodi hospital," the official said.

The protesters have vowed not to leave Government House until the government, which they accuse of being corrupt and a proxy for ousted prime ministerThaksin Shinawatra, steps down.

There was no immediate comment from the anti-government alliance.

The months-long stand-off erupted into bloodshed on October 7 when police fired tear gas at the demonstrators, sparking clashes that left two people dead and nearly 500 injured.

A number of small blasts have also rocked the protest camp at the complex, injuring several people.

The unrest gripping the country briefly paused for the six-day funeral of deeply revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej's sister, which ended Wednesday, but analysts had warned that it was likely to restart soon afterwards.

Thaksin, who was ousted in an military coup in 2006 and is living in exile to avoid corruption charges, is set to make a telephone address to his supporters next month, which could further inflame the situation.

The former leader made a similar address on November 1, denouncing his opponents to 90,000 loyal supporters packed into a Bangkok sports stadium.

Current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, said last week that he was considering building a new headquarters in Bangkok because of the siege of Government House.

Somchai has been working with his cabinet from an abandoned airport terminal since demonstrators seized his offices in August.

Thailand has been in crisis since telecoms billionaire Thaksin was ousted, following protests that were also led by the PAD.

Thaksin's allies in the People Power Party won elections in December, angering the old power cliques in the palace, military and bureaucracy who had tried to rid Thailand of Thaksin's influence.

Parliament elected Somchai as prime minister on September 17 after his predecessor Samak Sundaravej was forced from office by a court that ruled he had been illegally paid for hosting TV cooking shows.

AFP jl =0A