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At least four people, including a police officer, have been killed as Thai police attempted to reclaim occupied government sites. This comes as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces charges of "neglect of duty."
A police crackdown on anti-government protest sites in the Thai capital, Bangkok, has left at least four dead and 64 injured.
Under the operation banner "Peace for Bangkok Mission," riot police - armed with shields, batons and tear gas - were deployed to at least five sites in the city to clear protesters.
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams backing up the riot police, who did not carry firearms, shot at protesters after meeting with armed opposition near Government House, the seat of the administration.
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 after suffering bullet wounds, according to the Erawan Emergency Medical Services Centre.
Thirty-nine protesters were arrested in the clashes, while as many as 100 demonstrators were arrested at the Energy Ministry complex and charged with violating a state of emergency.
In an early morning raid, police rounded up scores of followers of the People's Democratic Reform Committee who were camped outside the headquarters of national petroleum company PTT.
The Khao Sod news agency said that protest leader Rawee Mashmadol was among those detained.
PM to face anti-graft commission
Just hours after the violent clashes broke out, news broke that Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission will bring charges of neglect of duty against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over a rice farm subsidy scheme.
In a statement, the commission said Yingluck had ignored warnings that a flagship rice policy was fostering corruption and causing financial losses.
She will be summoned to hear the charges on February 27. She could be removed from office if found guilty, the commission said.
Under the scheme introduced in 2011, farmers are guaranteed above-market prices for rice. Anger over the scheme has fueled the anti-government protests, with critics saying that the measure has encouraged corruption, consumed public monies and left the country with piles of unsold stock.
Protesters have been rallying since November in their effort to depose Yingluck, who they claim is a puppet of her exiled older brother, Thaksin. He was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and has been sentenced to prison for a corruption conviction.
The opposition were unsuccessful in efforts last week at the Constitutional Court to have the results of the February 2 elections anulled, claiming they were flawed in favor of the Shinawatras. Reruns of elections in areas where protesters had prevented voting from taking place are planned for April 27, although the government has said it wants these much sooner.
tj/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)