Grenade fails to scare hardcore Thai protesters

BANGKOK Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:05am EST

1 of 5. An anti-government protester lies next to the area struck by a grenade blast at the government house in Bangkok November 20, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Sukree Sukplang

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Diehard protesters occupying the Thai prime minister's offices brushed off a grenade attack that killed one person and wounded 23 on Thursday, saying they would continue their three-month sit-in to oust the government.

Minutes after the suspected M-79 grenade dropped from a tent awning onto sleeping protesters at 3:30 a.m., the movement's own satellite television showed others dancing to live music on a stage only meters away.

The explosion, the fourth and the most serious assault on the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), drew more people to the Government House protest zone to offer their support to a hard core of a few hundred.

"When I heard of the death, I decided to come with friends to support my colleagues here in ousting the government," said one well-dressed woman in her early 30s who declined to given her name.

Otherwise it was business as usual at the once-ornate compound that is now entirely covered by tents apart from a few patches of border dedicated to growing rice.

HIGH-VOLUME INVECTIVE

As normal, speakers took to the stage to deliver torrents of high-volume invective against Thaksin and his brother-in-law, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, whom they accuse of running a puppet administration.

At entry points to the compound, PAD sentries checked visitors' bags for weapons. In previous protests, PAD security guards have shown themselves to be armed.

A computer repairman in his 50s who had not gone back to sleep since the explosion said he would not be going home.

"I was afraid when the first or second bombs were thrown at us, but I am now indifferent to those threats," he said.

Opinion polls have shown waning support for the PAD in the last month, in large part because of the royalist movement's refusal to dismantle street barricades to allow royal motorcades past for last weekend's cremation of the king's sister.

However, many continue to see their campaign as the last line of defense against a Thaksin plot -- vehemently denied -- to unseat Thailand's revered monarchy, and some said they were prepared to lay down their lives for the cause.

"It would be honorable to die here rather than being killed in a road accident," said one woman in her 40s from Trang province, 830 km (510 miles) south of Bangkok.

(Writing by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Ed Cropley and David Fox)

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