Update as of 7:14 a.m. EST: According to Reuters, one police officer and three protesters have been killed in gunfire, taking the total number of casualties in the latest round of anti-government protests in Bangkok to four. 183 protesters have been arrested at two protest sites at the Energy Ministry and 64 people have been wounded in clashes Tuesday. Security officials said that 15,000 officers were deployed to reclaim the Government House site from the protesters. The police has reclaimed the Energy Ministry site, where it arrested 100 protesters Tuesday morning. The report also said that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will hear charges over the rice-subsidy program on Feb. 27.
Update as of 5:34 a.m. EST: According to the BBC, Thailand's anti-corruption body said it would file charges against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's rice subsidy program for handling it improperly. The National Anti-Corruption Commission, or NACC, reportedly said that Yingluck ignored warnings that the scheme would lead to losses and would encourage corruption. Under the program, the government promised to buy rice at a rate that is 50 percent higher than the market rate but has been criticized by the nation's rice farmers for late and non-payments. The BBC report also noted that local police had fired upon protesters as clashes between protesters escalated to claim at least three lives and injured scores of people.
Update as of 3:17 a.m. EST: According to a Wall Street Journal report, the casualty count in the latest round of clashes has risen to 3, including 2 policemen and 1 protester, and at least 58 people have been injured. However, a report from New York Times said that two people, including one policeman, were killed.
One police officer was killed and dozens were wounded on Tuesday after Thai authorities clashed with anti-government protesters camped outside Government House in Bangkok, media reports said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the police had begun negotiating with demonstrators in an effort to reclaim official sites, which have been inundated by protesters seeking to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign from her position. On Monday, the protesters had walled the entrance to Government House, which houses the offices of the prime minister and cabinet officials.
Three witnesses told Reuters that they had heard gunfire and had seen firearms being carried to both sides. Television pictures of the protest site reportedly show the area being covered by tear gas and police defending themselves with riot shields. According to a report by Agence France-Presse, citing a local hospital, a total of 25 people were hurt in the violence.
However, it was not clear who had used tear gas, as National Security Council Chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told Reuters: “I can guarantee that teargas was not used by security forces. The forces did not take teargas with them,” adding: "We understand protesters are the ones who threw teargas at the security forces. Police are armed with just batons and shields and no rubber bullets are being used.”
Local police reportedly said they had arrested about 100 protesters early on Tuesday from a protest site near the Energy Ministry.
Akanat Promphan, a spokesman for the anti-government movement, told AFP: “The arrests don't affect us. The will of the people is still strong. The government is trapped. It has no way forward.”
Demonstrations against Yingluck began in November, demanding that she step down from her post. Protesters claim Yingluck is a pawn in the hands of her elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was convicted of corruption charges and fled the country to currently reside in Dubai.
Yingluck's proposal to hold elections in the country on Feb. 2 to help diffuse tensions failed when the opposition refused to vote and protesters prevented the opening of 10,000 polling stations.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban addressed the police earlier and reportedly said: “We are not fighting to get power for ourselves. The reforms we will set in motion will benefit your children and grandchildren, too. The only enemy of the people is the Thaksin regime," according to a Reuters report.