Both Sides Trade Accusations Over Twin Attacks

Aftermath of the grenade and gunfire attacks at PCAD rally in Trat province, 22 February 2014

(24 February) Both anti-government protest leadership and the government have accused each other of being complicit in the latest spree of violence against the protesters.

Although Bangkok has seen sporadic drive-by shootings and grenade attacks at various venues in recent weeks, the scale of violence has exponentially increased over the weekend.

The first of the twin attacks occurred at a rally site of the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) in Trat province on the night of 22 February. Unidentified assailants threw grenades and opened fire into the crowd, injuring at least 40 people. At least one five-year old girl was killed in the attacks.
 
A local administrative official said the firearms used in the attack were a handgun, a shotgun, and "a number of unidentified weapons".
 
Hours later, a second attack took place near another PCAD rally in Ratchaprasong intersection – which locates in the shopping district of Bangkok – on Sunday afternoon. An explosive device – believed to be an M79 grenade – was launched at the protesters in front of Big C shopping mall, and the subsequent blast wounded at least 22 people in the vicinity.
 
A six-year old girl was killed by the attack almost immediately. Her five-year old brother later died at hospital today, medical workers announced. 
 
Witnesses said the two children were about to exit a tuk-tuk with their parent when the M79 grenade landed next to the vehicle. Mr. Thayakorn Yod-Ubol, father of both children, said he was taking the pair to shopping at Big C department store. 
 
The twin attacks, apparently intended to cause large number of casualties among the largely-peaceful protesters, were the worst acts of political violence in months. Previous grenade attacks on PCAD demonstrators on Banthat Thong Road and Victory Monument in January killed one protester and injured scores of others. 
 
No group has publicly claimed responsibility of the brutal attacks over the weekend. The police have not arrested any suspect related to the cases. 
 
Both sides blamed each other for the incidents. Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the PCAD, said the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had engineered the attacks to justify the enactment of the State of Emergency, and to intimidate the demonstrators following a court ruling which prohibits the authorities from curbing the protests. 
 
Mr. Suthep added that he will seek legal action against Ms. Yingluck and other top officials for their alleged plots to kill and maim PCAD supporters.
 
Mr. Ongart Klampaiboon, deputy chairman of the Democrat Party which supports the PCAD movements, likewise condemned the incidents. He expressed his belief that the attacks were coordinated to stir violence in the country.
 
"Ms. Yingluck has to take responsibility for these events," Mr. Ongart said at the press conference, "If she remains silent, the people in the society will question whether the violence was instigated by the authorities for political purpose".
 
The Democrat also complained that the police have failed to apprehend any suspect in connection to the attacks on PCAD protesters while the drive-by shooting at a Redshirts leader′s residence in Udon Thani province was followed by swift investigation and arrests.
 
Meanwhile, spokesman of the ruling Pheu Thai Party condemned the attacks on PCAD rally sites at a press conference, calling the incidents "barbaric and evil", but he also denied the government′s involvement and suggested that the PCAD leadership is complicit in the attacks. 
 
"These actions do not benefit the government. They only benefit the people who want to create a situation of conflicts," Mr. Prompong Nopparit said, "Only the masked men who are waiting to reap the mangoes under the tree will benefit from this".
 
He further voiced his suspicion that the attacks seem to always occur whenever the protest momentum is ebbing. 
 
Both Ms. Yingluck and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also separately expressed their sympathy for the losses of lives in the latest wave of violence on their Facebook accounts.