March 26, 2006

Bomb at opposition party HQ keeps Thai tension high

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai explosives experts defused a
time-bomb at the opposition Democrat Party headquarters on
Monday, six days before a snap election called by Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to try to end a political crisis.

The bomb, the size of a box of tissues, contained TNT,
senior party official Satit Wongnontaey said. It was found by a
cleaner in the Democrat office compound three hours before it
was due to explode at 10 a.m. (0300 GMT).

"The cleaner suspected the box wrapped in green tape and
called the police," Satit told Reuters, adding that 50 people
in the building were evacuated while it was being defused.

There was no immediate word on who might have planted the
device, the latest of several small bombs in Bangkok that have
helped keep tensions high during a national political crisis.

On several occasions, police have said they believe a
"third party" may be trying to foment violence ahead of the
April 2 snap poll, which Thaksin called as a foil to a
middle-class, metropolitan campaign to kick him out.

The Democrats and the two other major opposition parties,
who accuse Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power, are
boycotting the poll, saying that anything organized by the
government cannot be neutral or fair.

Before word of the bomb spread, they contemptuously
dismissed a Thaksin offer to end the deadlock by forming a
national unity government after the election.

"I think this is Thaksin's new joke," said Democrat
spokesman Ong-Ard Klampaiboon. "His point is only to have the
election and not to worry whether it is a dirty election or

There was no immediate response from the Mahachon party,
but the Chart Thai party issued a scornful rejection of the
olive branch.

"It's Thaksin's mirage," deputy party leader Somsak
Prisnanantakul told a Bangkok radio station. "He's already
rotten and he's trying to drag everyone in to be rotten like


Despite Thaksin's huge popularity with rural Thais, some
seats are likely to remain unfilled after the election,
invalidating the result because the constitution says all 500
MPs must be in parliament to form a government.

Thousands of protesters of the People's Alliance for
Democracy (PAD), the ad hoc coalition bent on booting Thaksin
out, held more rallies in Bangkok at the weekend, calling for
King Bhumibol Adulyadej to appoint an interim prime minister.

On Sunday, demonstrators chanting "Vote No Vote" also hit
the capital's busy shopping district in a bid get the public to
mark the "abstention" box on ballot papers to register their

However, the embattled former telecoms tycoon can take
heart in the latest opinion polls, which suggest more and more
people in and around Bangkok are getting fed up with the
protests -- and the traffic congestion they are causing.

According to an Assumption University ABAC poll conducted
on Friday and Saturday, 27 percent of urban Thais believe
Thaksin should resign, compared to a peak of 48 percent on
March 6.

The same poll, which sampled 1,494 people in Bangkok and
its satellite towns, also suggested 42 percent of voters
believe he should not resign, compared to 36 percent three
weeks ago.