Suspect in Thai explosion linked to ‘Red Shirt’ anti-government protest group

By Kinan Suchaovanich, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Suspect in Thai blast linked to protest group

BANGKOK — A man suspected of accidentally blowing up an apartment building in a Bangkok suburb is linked to the “Red Shirt” protest movement and had bomb-making materials in his room, officials said Wednesday, lending support to accusations that the movement is behind a series of explosions in the Thai capital.

Police said a charred body recovered from the badly damaged building in Nonthaburi province, just north of Bangkok, probably is Samai Wongsuwan, who was renting the apartment where the blast is believed to have originated. Three other people were killed and nine were injured by the explosion Tuesday evening.

“There is a high probability that this is a bomb-making accident,” said Nonthaburi police chief Maj. Gen. Supakit Srichantranon. He said police found bomb-making materials in the apartment, including fertilizer contained in fire extinguishers, electrical circuit boards and high-voltage batteries.

Supakit said Samai was a suspect in the blast and in a bombing in the northern city of Chiang Mai. National police chief Gen. Wichean Potephosree told reporters the materials found at the blast were similar to those used in four recent bombings, suggesting the incidents were linked.

Samai’s wife, Buakam Muangma, told reporters at the couple’s home in Chiang Mai that he was a supporter of the Red Shirts, who seized Bangkok’s main commercial district for more than a month earlier this year to demand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call early elections. A military crackdown on May 19 ended the protests, in which about 90 people died and more than 1,400 were injured.

Although the protesters were largely peaceful, they were backed by an armed group dubbed the “Men in Black” and by some hooligans.

There have been several dozen small explosions around Bangkok this year thought to be related to the political battle between the government and the Red Shirts. Several blasts since July have killed one person and wounded a dozen.

Many Red Shirt supporters back former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and disrespect to the king.

The blast at the apartment building came on the same day that authorities extended a state of emergency in Bangkok and three surrounding provinces, citing continued security concerns. The measure was imposed in April during the anti-government protests.

Soldiers have been posted at many key locations in the capital including government buildings and train stations.

Officials recently warned that increased violence is likely beginning this month, and detained 11 men over the weekend in Chiang Mai province accused of training for armed attacks to overthrow the monarchy.

Associated Press Writer Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report.

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