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Thai court orders government not to use force against peaceful protesters

A court has ordered Thailand’s government not to use force on peaceful protesters. After five died in Bangkok gun battles on Tuesday, protesters seeking to oust Yingluck Shinawatra have rallied at her temporary office.

Though the Civil Court called January's state of emergency decree legal, Wednesday's ruling further complicated things for

the embattled government

by ordering that the prime minister and a special security command center could not issue any orders that would violate protesters' rights. Thailand's Cabinet had declared the state of emergency in Bangkok on January 21 after protesters threatened to shut down the capital by blocking key intersections and occupying government offices.

In making its ruling, the court cited a previous judgment that had called the protests peaceful. It remained unclear whether Wednesday's ruling would affect arrest warrants issued for protest leaders for violating the state of emergency, as well as the status of 180 people arrested on Tuesday under the same decree.

Protests continued into Wednesday,

a day after leader Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee, had urged supporters to maintain pressure on the prime minister to stand down. "No matter where Yingluck is, we will follow," he had said.

'Peace for Bangkok'

On Wednesday, Suthep called for 200 cars to converge on the Defense Ministry, which Yingluck has used as a base since activists closed down her headquarters at Government House in December. As protesters rallied at her temporary office on Wednesday, the premier stayed away from the potential flashpoint a day after five people - four protesters and one police officer - died in gun battles when security forces launched a mission called "Peace for Bangkok."

Under that name, riot police - armed with shields, batons and tear gas - were deployed to at least five sites in the city to clear protesters. Suthep said he would increase pressure on Yingluck as a result of the police actions.

Tuesday ultimately saw the deadliest clashes since the anti-government demonstrations began in November. In addition to the deaths,

the violent police crackdown

left 64 injured.

"We came here because we do not want Yingluck to use the Defense Ministry complex anymore," Chumpol Jumsai, a protest organizer, told about 3,000 supporters on Wednesday. "We're asking soldiers to stop letting Yingluck use this facility."

Just hours after Tuesday's violent clashes broke out, Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission announced that it would bring charges of neglect of duty against Yingluck over a failed rice farm subsidy scheme. In a statement, the commission charged that the prime minister had ignored warnings that her policy was fostering corruption and causing financial losses. According to the commission, Yingluck will be summoned to hear the charges on February 27 and could be removed from office if found guilty.

Protesters have been rallying since November in their effort to depose Yingluck, who they claim is a puppet of her exiled older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra. He was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and has been sentenced to prison for a corruption conviction.

mkg/mz (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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