Two hurt in blast as Thailand's rivals face off for power

BANGKOK - Two anti-government protesters were injured in a blast outside the Thai prime minister's offices, police said on Sunday, as the two sides in a long political crisis squared off over who is running the country.

The caretaker government loyal to ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is clinging to power and to the hope of an election in July to restore its authority.

But the government's enemies deride its legitimacy and are calling on the upper house of parliament, the courts and the Election Commission to appoint a new prime minister.

Media said an unidentified attackers launched a grenade at anti-government protesters outside Government House at around midnight. The prime minister's offices have been vacant for weeks.

"It was an explosion that slightly hurt two protesters but we can't confirm whether it was a grenade," a district police officer said.

Thailand has been divided for years by a struggle between the royalist establishment and Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunications tycoon who fuelled a spectacular political rise with policies that won him the loyalty of the rural and urban poor.

But Thaksin's success posed a challenge to the traditional Bangkok-based power elite. He was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and has lived abroad since being sentenced to jail for corruption in 2008.

He or his loyalists have won every election sine 2001 and Yingluck, his younger sister, became prime minister after a 2011 polls victory.

The rival supporters are staging sit-in protests at various places in and on the outskirts of Bangkok raising fears of violence between their armed activists.

Yingluck's sacking by the Constitutional Court for nepotism on Wednesday followed six months of sometimes violent protests against her that have unnerved investors and tourists and dented growth in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

Yingluck's Puea Thai party still runs a caretaker government and it is hoping to organise a July 20 election that it would probably win.

Her "red shirt" supporters have denounced her removal as a judicial coup and have warned of a tough reaction if their caretaker government is also thrown out of power.