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Bomb at opposition party HQ keeps Thai tension high

Written by: Staff
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BANGKOK, Mar 27 (Reuters) Thai explosives experts defused a time-bomb at the opposition Democrat Party headquarters today, six days before a snap election called by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to try to end a political crisis.

The bomb, the size of a box of tissues, contained TNT, senior party official Satit Wongnontaey said. It was found by a cleaner in the Democrat office compound three hours before it was due to explode at 1000 hrs.

''The cleaner suspected the box wrapped in green tape and called the police,'' Satit told Reuters, adding that 50 people in the building were evacuated while it was being defused.

There was no immediate word on who might have planted the device, the latest of several small bombs in Bangkok that have helped keep tensions high during a national political crisis.

On several occasions, police have said they believe a ''third party'' may be trying to foment violence ahead of the April 2 snap poll, which Thaksin called as a foil to a middle-class, metropolitan campaign to kick him out.

The Democrats and the two other major opposition parties, who accuse Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power, are boycotting the poll, saying that anything organised by the government cannot be neutral or fair.

Before word of the bomb spread, they contemptuously dismissed a Thaksin offer to end the deadlock by forming a national unity government after the election.

''I think this is Thaksin's new joke,'' said Democrat spokesman Ong-Ard Klampaiboon. ''His point is only to have the election and not to worry whether it is a dirty election or not.'' There was no immediate response from the Mahachon party, but the Chart Thai party issued a scornful rejection of the olive branch.

''It's Thaksin's mirage,'' deputy party leader Somsak Prisnanantakul told a Bangkok radio station. ''He's already rotten and he's trying to drag everyone in to be rotten like him.'' POLLS TIPPING TO THAKSIN Despite Thaksin's huge popularity with rural Thais, some seats are likely to remain unfilled after the election, invalidating the result because the constitution says all 500 MPs must be in parliament to form a government.

Thousands of protesters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the ad hoc coalition bent on booting Thaksin out, held more rallies in Bangkok at the weekend, calling for King Bhumibol Adulyadej to appoint an interim prime minister.

Demonstrators chanting ''Vote No Vote'' also hit the capital's busy shopping district yesterday in a bid get the public to mark the ''abstention'' box on ballot papers to register their disapproval.

However, the embattled former telecoms tycoon can take heart in the latest opinion polls, which suggest more and more people in and around Bangkok are getting fed up with the protests -- and the traffic congestion they are causing.

According to an Assumption University ABAC poll conducted on Friday and Saturday, 27 per cent of urban Thais believe Thaksin should resign, compared to a peak of 48 per cent on March 6.

The same poll, which sampled 1,494 people in Bangkok and its satellite towns, also suggested 42 per cent of voters believe he should not resign, compared to 36 per cent three weeks ago.

REUTERS SHB SP1058

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