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
Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
i100
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Sport
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
tv
News
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Extras
indybest
News
i100... and no one notices
Arts and Entertainment
Friends reunited: Julian Ovenden, Richard Cant and Matt Bardock in rehearsals for the Donmar revival of 'My Night
with Reg'
theatrePoignancy of Kevin Elyot's play being revived just after his death
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...

Business Analyst (Systems/ Incident Analyst)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Business Analyst r...

SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently looking for a PERMANENT S...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor