Thai anti-government protesters have set their sights on the office of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for fresh protests. Opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban has vowed to step up pressure on the premier.
Protesters seeking to oust Yingluck organized a rally at her temporary office on Wednesday, a day after five people died in gun battles in Bangkok.
Opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), was said to have planned a convoy of some 200 cars converging on the Defense Ministry offices in the north of Bangkok. Yingluck has been using the office as a temporary base since her headquarters at Government House were closed down by activists in December.
Yingluck and her Cabinet were reported not to be at the building, which was heavily guarded by soldiers behind barbed wire.
Protest leader Suthep urged supporters on Tuesday evening to maintain pressure on the prime minister to stand down. "No matter where Yingluck is, we will follow," he said.
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. Suthep said he would increase pressure on Yingluck as a result of the police actions.
Police review strategy
On Wednesday, National Security Council Chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told the Reuters news agency that there would probably be a pause as security forces weighed their options.
Just hours after the violent clashes broke out, Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission said it would bring charges of neglect of duty against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over a failed rice farm subsidy scheme.
In a statement, the commission charged that Yingluck had ignored warnings that the policy was fostering corruption and causing financial losses.
She will be summoned to hear the charges on February 27 and could be removed from office if found guilty, according to the commission.
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.
rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)