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May 29, 2017

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Dozens hurt by bomb at Thai protest

BANGKOK -- A bomb attack wounded dozens of people at an opposition protest march in Thailand's capital on Friday, sending tensions soaring following weeks of mass rallies aimed at overthrowing the government.

The kingdom has been periodically rocked by political bloodshed since former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago.

His sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, has faced more than two months of street demonstrations aimed at forcing her government from office and installing an unelected "people's council."

The authorities and demonstrators both blamed each other for the blast, which was apparently caused by a grenade-type device thrown from a nearby building.

The anti-government movement said the explosion happened shortly before rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban was due to pass by.

"The bomb went off about 30 meters from Suthep," protest spokesman Akanat Promphan told AFP. "Then his bodyguards escorted him back to a rally stage."

Television footage showed several people lying on the ground as ambulances rushed away the wounded. Protesters were seen searching nearby buildings for the attackers.

The city's Erawan emergency centre said 36 people were hurt, including one who was undergoing an emergency operation.

Eight people have been killed and hundreds wounded in street violence since the protests began.

Yingluck's supporters fear the violence is aimed at provoking another military or judicial coup to remove her from power.

Demonstrators, backed by the country's royalist establishment, have occupied major intersections in the capital since Monday in what they have dubbed the "Bangkok shutdown."

There have been a series of night-time drive-by shootings at rally sites and grenade attacks on the houses of opposition politicians that both the demonstrators and the government have blamed on each other.

The latest blast raised the attacks to "a new level" as it happened in broad daylight and was "apparently intended to cause significant casualties," said Anthony Davis, a Thailand-based security analyst at IHS-Jane's.

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