3 Killed in Bangkok Clashes, PM to Face Charges over Rice Scheme
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Gun battles erupted between Thai police and anti-government protesters in Bangkok on Tuesday and three people were killed and dozens wounded as authorities made their most determined effort yet to clear demonstrators from the streets.
In a day of tangled developments in Thailand's long-running political crisis, the country's anti-corruption body announced it was filing charges against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra relating to a rice subsidy scheme that has fuelled middle-class opposition to her government.
In a related development, the Government Savings Bank (GSB) said it was calling back a loan to the state farm bank, that manages the rice subsidy scheme, after a high volume of withdrawals by GSB depositors apparently intent on undermining the government's subsidy program, Reuters reported.
The clashes were the most intense in the latest installment of an eight-year political battle broadly pitting the Bangkok middle class and royalist establishment against the poorer, mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and her billionaire brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Reuters witnesses heard gunfire and saw police firing weapons in the area around Phanfa Bridge in the old quarter of the city. Police said they had come under fire from a sniper on a rooftop in the area and that M-79 grenades were also fired.
"One policeman has died and 14 police were injured," national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew told Reuters. "He was shot in the head."
Security officials said separately four police officers had been wounded by shrapnel.
The Erawan Medical Center, which monitors hospitals, said on its website that two protesters, both men aged 52 and 29, had also been killed. The center said 59 people had been wounded. It did not provide a breakdown of how many of the wounded were police and how many were civilians.
Security officials said earlier that 15,000 officers were involved in the operation, "Peace for Bangkok Mission", to reclaim protest sites around central Bangkok's Government House and other government offices in the north of the capital.
Yingluck has been forced to abandon her offices in Government House by the protesters, who have also blocked major intersections since mid-January.