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Thai PM faces charges as clashes leave four dead

Agence France-Presse . Bangkok

An armed Thai police officer, centre, aims his rubber bullet rifle as medical team carry an injured person on a stretcher during a clash between police and anti-government protesters on Tuesday in Bangkok, Thailand.— AP photo An armed Thai police officer, centre, aims his rubber bullet rifle as medical team carry an injured person on a stretcher during a clash between police and anti-government protesters on Tuesday in Bangkok, Thailand.— AP photo

Thailand’s embattled premier will be charged with neglect of duty, anti-graft officials said Tuesday, as clashes between the police and opposition protesters left four dead and dozens wounded in central Bangkok.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission said that if found guilty of the accusations — which relate to a controversial rice subsidy scheme — the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, could be removed from office.
The announcement came hours after gunfire and explosions shook an area of the city’s historic district just a short walk away from major tourist attractions, as the riot police moved to clear sites of protest rallies.
A policeman was shot dead and three civilians were killed, according
to the Erawan emergency centre, while 64 others were injured. The police said 24 of its officers were among those hurt.
It was unclear who fired the fatal shots but a government spokeswoman said the police used only rubber bullets and not live ammunition.
The protesters have staged more than three months of mass street rallies demanding Yingluck’s resignation, occupying major state buildings and preventing civil servants going to work.
The police launched another operation to reclaim besieged government buildings and clear rally sites in the capital Tuesday, tearing through razor wire and sandbag barricades.
They met fierce resistance from protesters and were eventually forced to retreat amid volleys of gunfire.
‘The government cannot work here anymore,’ a spokesman for the protesters, Akanat Promphan, said from a rally site near Yingluck’s headquarters which the police failed to seize back.
‘The will of the people is still strong. The government is trapped. It has no way forward,’ he added.
Bemused tourists caught up in the chaos were seen taking photos of the aftermath of the clashes near the backpacker haven of Khaosan Road.
‘I heard there were political problems in Thailand but I came anyway,’ said Jerome Dennehy, 45, from Ireland.
‘It’s not good to see but this is one part of Bangkok, in a country of millions. It won’t stop my holiday.’
Around 150 opposition demonstrators were arrested at a different rally site at an energy ministry complex in the capital on charges of violating a state of emergency — the first mass detentions during the current protests began.
Thailand has been periodically rocked by mass demonstrations staged by rival protest groups since a military coup in 2006 that ousted then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra — Yingluck’s brother.
Fifteen people have died and hundreds have been injured in political violence linked to the latest round of rallies.
Yingluck’s opponents say she is a puppet for her brother Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-politician who fled overseas in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.
The protesters are demanding Yingluck hand power to a temporary, unelected government that would carry out reforms to tackle corruption and alleged misuse of public funds before new elections are held.




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An armed Thai police officer, centre, aims his rubber bullet rifle as medical team carry an injured person on a stretcher during a clash between police and anti-government protesters on Tuesday in Bangkok, Thailand.— AP photo
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