A GRENADE explosion amid anti-government protesters in downtown Bangkok killed two people on Sunday, even as observers warned that the violence was no longer confined to the capital.
The blast went off in the late afternoon in front of the Big C mall opposite Central World, near the Ratchaprasong intersection.
A woman and a child were killed and 22 injured. The intersection has been occupied for weeks by protesters from the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) bent on forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government out of office.
The blast came a day after a grenade and shooting attack in the north-eastern town of Trat last Saturday where 40 PDRC protesters were injured. A young girl was killed by a stray bullet while eating noodles at a stall with her parents.
Since the political crisis began more than 100 days ago, 18 people have died and over 600 have been hurt. On Feb 17, an hours-long clash in Bangkok left two policemen and three PDRC protesters dead. The Trat incident was the deadliest attack so far.
"It is worrying that the violence is spreading outside Bangkok," said Thailand researcher Sunai Phasuk of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Said Chulalongkorn University political science professor Pitch Pongsawat: "It is fragmented; there are many groups of people who have the resources and potential to do violence."
There appeared to be increasing attacks on the anti-government PDRC, Mr Sunai noted, coming on the heels of a Feb 19 court judgment that upheld the government's declaration of a state of emergency - but stripped it of the means to enforce it.
Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-government "red shirt" leaders from across the country gathered in the north-eastern town of Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday to discuss tactics. It was clear there was growing frustration.
"The red shirts have been restrained since December. We have tried hard. But people's tolerance is limited," United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship co-leader Weng Tojirakarn told The Straits Times by phone. "Some want to force an abrupt change in the situation. We have to keep them calm."
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