News

6 hurt in blast at protest site

An explosion was heard at the Ratchaprasong anti-government rally site in Bangkok last night, reported the Jor Sor 100 FM radio.

At least six people were injured in the blast and taken to hospital, said the radio station, which broadcasts city traffic reports. Many cars were damaged in the blast, the Bangkok Post reported online.

People's Democratic Reform Committee leader Suthep Thaugsuban told a crowd that had gathered to hear him speak that the explosion was caused by a bomb thrown at a car.

Thai police were investigating and telling motorists to avoid using the route.

Earlier yesterday, thousands of angry Thai rice farmers called off a threat to descend on Bangkok's main airport, in a rare reprieve for the embattled government after months of opposition street protests, AFP reported.

A convoy of tractor-riding farmers had planned to head to Suvarnabhumi Airport unless they received a promise of payment under a rice subsidy scheme that has become a political nightmare for the government.

But they stopped north of Bangkok and agreed to return home after apparently reaching a deal with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's administration. Local media said they had been promised they would get their payments next week.

Thailand's tourist industry still has painful memories of 2008, when opposition protesters paralysed Bangkok's main airports, stranding thousands of travellers.

The rice subsidy scheme, which paid farmers up to 50 per cent above market rates, helped to propel Ms Yingluck to power in 2011 on a wave of support from supporters in the rural north and north-east.

But the flagship policy has now become a political liability, with farmers demanding payment after the government ran short of cash to buy their pledged crops late last year.

It has left the kingdom with a mountain of unsold rice.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has also launched a probe into possible negligence of duty by Ms Yingluck in connection with the rice policy.