Thai police said Monday that a grenade was responsible for a blast at a rally by opponents of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, as the number of injured rose to 12.
Organisers said the small explosion at the protest in central Bangkok late Sunday was caused by a firecracker thrown by men on a motorcycle, but police said they now believed it was a more serious attack.
The rally by around 20,000 “Yellow Shirts” was held to condemn Thaksin’s visit to neighbouring Cambodia last week and his appointment by Phnom Penh as a an economic adviser to the government.
“This M-79 grenade was likely fired from the side of the venue, where the defence ministry and a court are located,” said Lieutenant general Worapong Chewpreecha, chief of Bangkok Metropolitan Police.
“But it was far away so its power was lower and did not cause many injuries,” he told reporters, adding that he had ordered the inspection of closed-circuit television cameras in the area.
He said that of the 12 people wounded in the blast three remained in hospital, one of them in intensive care. Two children were among those hurt, he added.
Photographs of the scene showed a small crater in a paving stone and a number of supporters of the yellow-clad People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) suffering from slight cuts.
Yellow Shirt founder Sondhi Limthongkul said Sunday that two men on a motorbike had thrown a large firecracker, which caused the explosion.
The royalist PAD said they were also protesting against comments about the monarchy made by billionaire Thaksin, who was ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006.
The Yellow Shirts held mass rallies in the months before the coup and took to the streets again in 2008, blockading Bangkok’s airports to drive out then pro-Thaksin government.
The group has however also held protests in recent weeks asking the current government of prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, a bitter foe of Thaksin, to take stronger action against Cambodian territorial claims.
Previous rallies by the Yellow Shirts have been hit by grenade blasts while Sondhi escaped a gun attack on his car in April.
Sondhi was in October voted leader of the movement’s new political party, the New Politics Party.
Thaksin’s visit to Cambodia sparked a diplomatic crisis between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, with relations already tense after a series of deadly clashes in the past year over disputed land around a temple on the border.
The row erupted again on Monday over consular visits to a Thai man accused of spying.
Thai citizen Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, was arrested Thursday on charges of supplying details of Thaksin’s flight schedule to his country’s embassy.
Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said a Thai diplomat visited Siwarak on Monday afternoon, but Thai Foreign minister Kasit Piromya said there had been no such meeting.
“Since he was arrested, Thai embassy officials have kept contacting Cambodian officials to seek permission to visit him, but we have not been granted it yet,” Kasit told reporters.
The spy allegations prompted Phnom Penh to expel the Thai embassy’s first secretary Thursday and Thailand reciprocated hours later.
Separately the Thai foreign ministry said it had passed information to the United Arab Emirates proving that Thaksin is living in Dubai.
Panich Vikitsreth, vice minister at the Thai ministry, said he had “briefly” met UAE ambassador Mohammed Ali Ahmed Omran Al Shamsi on Monday “to discuss information related to Thaksin”.
Thaksin has said he spends much of his time in Dubai. Thailand has previously sought the UAE’s assistance but the two countries have not signed an extradition treaty.