Pro-government rally raises the heat in Thai power struggle

Declaring their love of democracy, supporters of the Prime Minister stage their own show of force as explosions rock the capital. Oliver Wright reports from Bangkok

Thousands of pro-government supporters took to the streets of Bangkok yesterday in a significant show of strength, as tensions were further raised in the Thai capital by a series of explosions that left 51 demonstrators injured.

The explosions, which were not claimed, hit anti-government protest sites including Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's Bangkok office compound, which protesters seized in August, an anti-government television station, and a road near the main entrance to Bangkok's domestic airport, where protesters have been camped out for the last six days.

The Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) said they will stay near the main government buildings for as long as the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) continue to occupy Bangkok's two main airports.

But their main fear is that the army, whose senior leaders are sympathetic to the cause of PAD, may try to topple the government, under the pretext of ending the crisis. They hope their visible presence on the streets will deter this.

By early evening at least 20,000 people had gathered, most wearing red which is associated with their cause. Videos of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra were being sold, along with red T-shirts and banners with his picture on.

"We love Thaksin. He is our hero," said one banner. Mr Thaksin, who is Mr Somchai's brother-in-law, was deposed in a 2006 military coup and fled Thailand to escape corruption charges. However, he still holds huge sway among his supporters – many of whom are poor and come from rural parts of Thailand, in contrast to the urban business classes who tend to support PAD.

Duang Yao said she was intending to sleep out until the threat to the airport had been lifted. "I love democracy and support the government," she said. "We have to fight to keep it. I will not go till we are safe."

On Saturday night, attackers set off grenades at the PAD demonstrations in the government compound and an anti-government television station, wounding 51 people, four of them seriously.

Yesterday, in a largely symbolic move, police ordered the airport protesters to disperse, banning gatherings of more than five people and warning offenders that they would be jailed or fined.

Some airlines are using a small, former military airport at theU-Tapao naval base, about 90 miles south-east of Bangkok. But authorities there have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of passengers cramming into the facility, trying to get their bags scanned through a single X-ray machine. More than 450 Thai Muslims who had been stranded at the main Suvarnabhumi airport for four days were bused to U-Tapao yesterday to board an Iran Air plane for the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

On Saturday, hundreds of tourists gathered at Thai Airways' cramped ticket office looking for ways out of the country. Slumped in chairs, travellers swapped tales of being stuck in the airport for 23 hours. "As time goes on, it becomes more and more stressful," said Julie Lewis, 46, from Devon, who came to Thailand for a wedding. "This has really put a complete damper on the trip. Our last memory will be the fact that this happened."

"We have work to do, families to look after," said John Neilson, a 67-year-old computer consultant from Salisbury, Wiltshire. "I've got a £12,000 contract that starts Monday. If I'm not there, I don't get paid."

Some have taken buses hundreds of miles to airports on the southern island of Phuket, in the northern city of Chiang Mai or overland to neighbouring Cambodia and Malaysia.

Some Thais are looking to the judiciary for a way out of the crisis. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule soon on whether three parties in the governing coalition, including Mr Somchai's People's Power Party, committed electoral fraud. If found guilty, the parties would be dissolved immediately, and executive members including Mr Somchai would be barred from politics for five years.

Others are counting on the monarchy to end the standoff. Revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has repeatedly brought calm in times of turbulence during his62-year reign, will give his annual birthday-eve speech on 4 December.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam