WRAPUP 2-Thai police pull back after confronting protesters

* Riot police pull back, “red shirts” refuse to clear
barrier

* Grenade attacks killed 3 people on Thursday

By Martin Petty and Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat

BANGKOK, April 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Hundreds of Thai riot police
confronted anti-government protesters at a barricade in
Bangkok’s business district on Friday, a day after grenade
attacks in the area killed three people, but later pulled back
without violence.

In tense scenes, Thai television said police went right up
to the barrier and demanded the “red shirts” dismantled it.
They made no move to do so, and a Reuters photographer said
protesters poured fuel on to the barricade, made up largely of
tyres.

But the police later pulled back, and the protesters also
retreated to the camp they have set up behind the barrier in
the capital’s Silom district, he said.

The government said the grenades late on Thursday, which
also wounded 75 people, were fired from the red shirt protest
area. Leaders of the red shirts, who have been demonstrating in
Bangkok for six weeks seeking new elections, denied they were
to blame.
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The grenade blasts came 12 days after clashes between
troops and protesters killed 25 people and wounded more than
800 in the country’s worst street violence in 18 years.

The central bank said on Wednesday that the political
crisis was affecting confidence, tourism, private consumption
and investment, although exports, which are crucial to economic
growth, have been little affected by the unrest.
[ID:nBKT003252]

Thailand’s currency, the baht (THB=: ), fell about 0.5
percent in early trade to 32.31 per dollar at 0159 GMT against
32.20 late on Thursday.

“It is clearly a reaction to the blasts last night. The
baht is hit by this abnormal situation despite its earlier
resilience. If the violence drags on and subject to the degree
of chaos, it could slide further to 32.40-50,” a Bangkok-based
dealer said.

The stock market, which has swung widely in recent sessions
in reaction to protest developments, opens at 0300 GMT.

CASUALTY RISK

The protesters, supporters of ousted former Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra, have also been occupying an upmarket
shopping area for three weeks.

Any attempt to disperse them risks heavy casualties and the
prospect of clashes spilling into high-end residential areas.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Thursday
night there would be no crackdown because women and children
were in the area.

Adding to the volatile mix, a new “multi-coloured” group is
planning a demonstration of 50,000 people in Bangkok’s old
quarter on Friday to demand the “red shirts” end their rally.

Demonstrations by this group have increased the tension in
the Silom business district this week.

“There are now two conflicting groups and this kind of
confrontation could create havoc and turmoil,” said Somjai
Phagaphasvivat, politics and economics professor at Thammasat
University.

Under growing pressure to restore order, the army warned
the red shirts on Thursday their “days are numbered”.

Leaders of the red-shirted supporters of twice-elected and
now fugitive Thaksin say they will only leave when the
military-backed government announces an early election.

They say the British-born, Oxford-educated Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power illegitimately in late 2008,
heading a coalition the military cobbled together after courts
dissolved a pro-Thaksin party that led the previous
government.

Investing Research

(Additional reporting by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat and
Vithoon Amorn; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Alex
Richardson)

WRAPUP 2-Thai police pull back after confronting protesters