Thailand protests near showdown

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A series of explosions in the Thai capital Bangkok is reported to have killed at least three people and injured scores more. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said grenades had been fired from a camp of anti-government protesters. The explosions followed rising tensions in the stand-off between police and opposition demonstrators in the city. We get an update from the BBC's Vaudine England in Bangkok.

JEB SHARP: I'm Jeb Sharp and this is "The World," a co production of the BBC World Service, P-R-I and W-G-B-H Boston. The standoff in Thailand's capital, Bangkok has gone on for weeks on one side are anti-government protesters, the "Red Shirts." They believe that Thailand Prime Minister came to power illegitimately and are pushing him to call elections immediately. On the other side are armed troops, it's a volatile situation. Today it erupted again at least five grenade explosions ripped through central Bangkok, three people were killed. The B-B-C's Vaudine England said the explosions were in the center of Bangkok's business district.

VAUDINE ENGLAND: This is where troops have been setup behind barricades since Monday and where Red Shirted anti-government protesters are across the street behind their own barricades so a very tense part of town suddenly made much more tense with these grenade explosions.

SHARP: So this whole conflict that's been going on for weeks is just taking a turn for the worse it seems.

ENGLAND: Yes, it doesn't feel very good out there at the moment. In fact last night we heard helicopters and strange sorts of bangs which turned out to be fireworks. There is a huge tension in this town at the moment, a massive sense of suspense and fear, real trepidation because this conflict has been building for weeks. The armed forces did try to clear the protesters out of the center of the city on the 10th of April but failed which was quite a humiliation for the army. It also left twenty five people dead at that point so clearly the fears of more violence are very intense. This could be a trigger for more violence tonight; we're not sure at this stage.

SHARP: And how are these events in this extended standoff and as you say tension and suspense, how have the affected life in the city a bit beyond where it's really happening and then even beyond Bangkok? What are the ramifications?

ENGLAND: In terms of day to day life it is a specific area of Bangkok that is basically fenced off by the anti-government Red Shirt protest camp but beyond that of course this conflict is about much more than simply a bunch of people in red shirts who want new elections. At its heart it goes to how governments are formed in Thailand which likes to call itself a Democracy but which in fact has had many governments over past decades which have been formed not by elections at all but by a kind of deal making in the background and this kind of upsurge of political consciousness among people such as represented by the Red Shirts is really these people saying, "Hey, we want a say in how these governments are formed."

SHARP: And how tenuous do you think the situation is? Could these protesters bring down the current government?

ENGLAND: It is possible. The Red Shirts have proven themselves far more determined, far more organized and actually far more broadly based than anybody was predicting. This is not simply a group of countryside thugs who have come to town to make a mess as some people like to think. It is not simply a group of people who support a former Prime Minister called Thaksin Shinawatra. It is a bit of all of those things but it much more. It is what some analysts are calling "the political consciousness raising of a generation."

SHARP: The B-B-C-'s Vaudine England in Bangkok, thanks very much.

ENGLAND: Thank you.