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Death toll in Thai anti-gov't protests reaches four, dozens injured

18 February 2014, 16:55

A crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Thai capital Bangkok on Tuesday left four dead and at least 64 others injured, as the country's embattled prime minister faced corruption charges.Thousands of riot-control police were deployed and used tear gas to clear away protesters pressuring PM Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.

The unarmed riot police were backed up by Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams, who fired at protesters after police ran into armed opposition in their move to retake the area around Government House, the seat of the administration.

The leader of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Suthep Thaugsuban, had stationed himself in the area Tuesday. After throwing tear gas at PDRC barricades, police came under fire from a rocket-propelled grenade and other weapons, leaving one officer dead and 10 injured, according to National Police Bureau spokesman Major General Phiya Uthayo.

Three civilians were killed by bullet wounds, according to the Erawan Emergency Medical Centre. Sixty-four others were injured, the centre said. Thirty-nine protesters were arrested in the clashes.

In an early morning raid Tuesday, police arrested two leading figures from the PDRC camped outside the Energy Ministry in the northern part of the city, and rounded up 144 others.

'Police this morning successfully reclaimed the site at the Energy Ministry,' said Lieutenant Colonel Kissana Phattanacharoen, spokesman for the government's emergency command force. There had been arrest warrants out for PDRC leaders Rawee Mashmadol and Tossodon Geowteepran, who were captured at the site, he said.

Bangkok has been under a state of emergency since last month, allowing police to arrest protesters and detain them without charge for up to seven days. Police were also deployed at the Government Complex, another administrative hub in northern Bangkok, and the Interior Ministry. PDRC leaders agreed to remove barricades on the road leading to Government Complex, avoiding a confrontation.

Suthep, a former parliamentarian with the opposition Democrat Party, has been leading protests in Bangkok since early November. He stepped up the demonstrations in mid-January to increase pressure on the government by occupying seven main intersections in the capital.

The protesters have also surrounded Government House since December, forcing the cabinet to move its offices elsewhere.

Chalerm Yubamrung, the minister in charge of enforcing the emergency decree, said he would retake Government House by Wednesday to allow Yingluck to return to her office.

Yingluck's premiership is also under pressure from an anti-corruption probe that took a major step forward on Tuesday. Thailand's anti-corruption commission decided to press charges against Yingluck for her role in a failing rice price-subsidy scheme. The National Anti-Corruption Commission's (NACC) panel summoned her to hear the charges on February 27, NACC spokesman Vicha Mahakul said.

The panel concluded that Yingluck, as president of the National Rice Policy Committee, was guilty of failing to stop the corruption-ridden and money-losing scheme, which helped bring her Pheu Thai Party to power in the July 2011 election. The case could eventually lead to Yingluck's impeachment, according to legal expert Verapat Pariyawong.

'The next step will be for the prime minister to present her testimony to the NACC panel, and then they will decide if they have a prima facie case against her,' said Verapat.

Voice of Russia, dpa

Source: Death-toll-in-Thai-anti-govt-protests-reaches- four-dozens-injured-5990/

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