ALTHOUGH Thailand's army is apparently determined not to be drawn into the country's political crisis, it is beefing up security significantly in the capital in the wake of nightly shootings and explosions.
The army is adding 147 checkpoints in sensitive areas around anti-government protest sites "and other key areas", in addition to 29 already in place, its top brass said yesterday. However, all troops remain unarmed.
This comes on the heels of a sharp deterioration in the security situation in the capital. Last night, four grenades - believed to have been fired from an M79 launcher - hit the parking area of Thai PBS TV and the nearby Royal Thai Police Sports Club, where riot police had gathered, the Bangkok Post reported.
Three cars and the club's roof were damaged but no one was injured.
On Friday, a grenade exploded in a downtown Bangkok anti-government protest site, injuring several people. Another blast in roughly the same area on Sunday claimed three lives, including two children who happened to be in the vicinity.
There was sporadic gunfire near protest sites of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in downtown Bangkok on Monday, Tuesday and on Wednesday.
Some of the gun battles between anti-government protest site guards and unknown attackers have lasted for hours.
While there have been no deaths in these more recent shooting incidents, Reuters quoted Thailand's national security chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr as saying:
"Recently we have been seeing more incidents like this happening more frequently. It is noticeable that there are incidents like this every day.... As for the perpetrators, we still don't know who they are."
A source at the National Security Council, who asked not to be named, told The Straits Times: "I have a feeling these (violent incidents) are going to happen again and again, it is not going to go away."
The PDRC is trying to drive Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government out of office. Its aim is to create a power vacuum that would allow the appointment of an interim premier and administration to pursue reforms before the country is allowed to hold another election.
Its main target is the network of the premier's brother, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who, from his base in self-exile abroad, is said to pull the strings of the ruling Puea Thai party.
The government has backed down, restraining the police but refuses to resign, saying it will go by the Constitution to "protect democracy".
The embattled premier, on tour in the party's northern strongholds, yesterday called for restraint from pro-government "red shirts", who have been increasingly talking of dividing the country. The government wanted dialogue with the PDRC, Ms Yingluck said. "We are all suffering from the conflict," she told reporters in Chiang Rai. "Social divide is leading to violence causing loss of lives."
Another threat to Ms Yingluck looms today, when the National Counter Corruption Commission reads charges against her regarding the government's controversial rice purchase scheme.
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