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Woman killed and 75 hurt as blasts rock Thai capital

Seventy-five people were injured and one woman killed when a string of grenade explosions shook Bangkok yesterday.
The five blasts hit commuters last night in the business quarter where there has been a tense stand-off for several days between armed troops and red shirt anti-government protesters, A Thai woman died and at least 75 people, many travelling home from work on Bangkok's train system, the Skytrain, are being treated in hospitals. Army spokesman, Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said five M-79 grenades were fired from grenade-launchers. Three fell through the roof of a station, which sits above Silom Road, the centre of Bangkok's business district. A fourth went off on the pavement near the five-star Dusit Thani Hotel and the fifth near a bank, he said.

The protesters are supporters of the fugitive Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed four years ago. They are demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resign. The red shirts are occupying areas of Bangkok's shopping hub and have built barricades, the biggest faces police in the Silom business district.  Six weeks of red-shirt protests have heaped pressure on the Thai government. More recently, a rival group of protesters has rallied in the area, occasionally throwing stones and insults at the "red shirts", creating a volatile mix. Several of the blasts were near where the rivals gathered.  This morning hundreds of riot police crossed the Rama IV road up to the red-shirt barricades for about two hours, but later pulled back again. “They surged forward, lining up just metres from the red shirts' tyre, wire and sharpened bamboo-stick barricade,” said a BBC correspondent in Bangkok. “The police soon withdrew, but this busy road junction has now become the most likely flashpoint. Tension builds here from late afternoon, not just between the red shirts and security forces, but with a group of anti red shirt demonstrators who gather to hurl insults - and last night rocks and glass bottles. It was among them the explosions went off, and where flowers were being laid this morning. It's currently calm, but the atmosphere can change very quickly,” he said.

Police have announced an investigation into the violence, as well as into an earlier failed military crackdown which left 25 people dead on April 10. Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the blasts were "the work of the terrorists that the government has always wanted to get rid off". But the leaders of the red shirts denied responsibility for the explosions, saying they were not about hurting innocent people.

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