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Bangkok grenade blast leaves one critical

A grenade exploded on a street in central Bangkok, leaving one person seriously hurt in the latest violence in the Thai capital, police said.

BANGKOK // A grenade exploded on a street in central Bangkok, leaving one person seriously hurt in the latest violence in the Thai capital, police said. The grenade was put in a plastic rubbish bag and dropped in Rangnam road near a duty-free shopping centre. The injured person was a Thai man in his 30s who was searching for scrap when the blast occurred shortly after midnight. "It was a hand grenade ... The pin was removed and a rubber band wrapped around it," Maj Gen Vichai Sangparpai of the Bangkok police told local television.

The unnamed victim was in critical condition with shrapnel in his head, according to Rajavithi hospital, where he was receiving treatment. The blast came less than a week after a small bomb exploded at a Bangkok bus stop, killing one person and injuring 10 in an attack that rekindled tensions in the capital, two months after the end of bloody street protests. No one has claimed responsibility for either explosion, which could delay a recovery in the country's vital tourism industry.

About 90 people died and some 1,900 were injured in street clashes between armed forces and demonstrators during two months of mass protests by the anti-government "Red Shirts," that ended with a bloody army crackdown in May. The deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, said he believed the grenade blast was politically motivated. "It's regrettable that the bomber wanted to incite further unrest to show that the government cannot control the situation," he told reporters.

Mr Thaugsuban, who is in charge of security, said he instructed the defence minister, Prawit Wongsuwon, to deploy police and soldiers to patrol the city streets. He added that the blast showed the government still needed to maintain emergency rule in Bangkok and 10 other provinces, out of a total of 76. "Core anti-government leaders are still inciting unrest," he said. The latest explosion came hours after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced he was ending emergency rule in six provinces in central and northeastern Thailand.

The government has come under pressure from the US and rights groups to end emergency rule to help the country recover from deadly civil unrest that has left it deeply divided. Authorities have used the powers introduced in Bangkok on April 7 to arrest hundreds of Red Shirts suspects and silence anti-government media. The protests by the Red Shirts, many of whom back fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, attracted up to 100,000 people demanding immediate elections.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a prison jail imposed in absentia for corruption. The Red Shirts, who hail Thaksin's policies for the poor, view the current government as elitist and undemocratic because it came to power after a court ruling threw out the previous administration. * AFP

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