Thai riot police officers take cover after an explosion during clashes with anti-government protesters near Democracy Monument in Bangkok, capital of Thailand, Feb. 18, 2014. Thai police on Tuesday morning started to reclaim from anti-government protesters five rally sites in the capital Bangkok, leaving three dead and 59 others injured in clashes. (Xinhua/Gao Jianjun)
BANGKOK, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Thai police on Tuesday morning started to reclaim from anti-government protesters five rally sites in the capital Bangkok, leaving three dead and 59 others injured in clashes.
Around 25,000 Thai police officers were deployed in a "peace for Bangkok" mission to retake rally sites near the Democracy Monument, Government House, Energy Ministry, Interior Ministry and Government Complex, where prolonged gathering of protesters has hindered traffic and work of government functionaries.
According to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's Erawan Emergency Medical Center, two civilians and a policeman were killed and 59 others injured in a clash between the police and protesters at around noon while the police were trying to retake the rally site near the Democracy Monument. Blasts and gunshots occurred during the clash, the police said.
The police have managed to remove some obstructions protesters set up around the monument, said Chalerm Yoobamrung, caretaker labor minister and chief of the government-run Center for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO).
The police have successfully retaken the rally site near the Energy Ministry, during which they detained two protest leaders, as well as more than 80 protesters. One of the detained leaders was rescued later. There was no clash between the police and the protesters.
It is reported the police found weapons including home-made explosives, giant firecrackers and teargas canisters at the rally site.
Protesters at the Government House have remained since the morning in a standoff with the police, with concrete walls and barbed wires set up between the two sides. The police have tried to negotiate with protesters, but no progress has been made yet.
At the Interior Ministry, the police were also negotiating with protest leaders.
In the morning, Phrad Buddha Issara, a Thai Buddhist monk leading an anti-government rally near the Government Complex, led protesters to dismantle barriers to allow traffic in and out of the complex.
The People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) will not let the police retake the Government House, Interior Ministry and other strongholds, PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan was quoted by Bangkok Post as saying.
The police operation will continue until all major rally sites are retaken, Chalerm said.
The army has sent military medical personnel and volunteers to help those injured in the clash, as instructed by army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander of the 1st Division King's Guard Wara Wara Bunyasit was quoted as saying.
Soldiers have also been deployed around rally sites to closely monitor the situation and prevent violence, he said.
In a televised speech on Tuesday, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attributed the government's delay in making overdue payments to farmers under the rice-pledging scheme to prolonged anti-government protests.
Protest leaders have been taking advantage of rice farmers in their political game to oust the government, Yingluck said, urging protest leaders to sympathize with the farmers and stop using them.
The caretaker government is endeavoring to raise money, either by selling stockpiled rice or by seeking loans from financial institutions, Yingluck said, adding the rice-pledging schemes had benefited the farmers since its implementation.
The Yingluck government started buying rice from farmers at above-market prices in 2011 to shore up rural incomes, fulfilling a campaign pledge by the Pheu Thai Party, which won a parliamentary majority that year.
Currently, the caretaker government owes about 130 billion baht (4 billion U.S. dollars) to around 1 million farmers nationwide.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday decided to press charges against Yingluck for alleged negligence of duty in the rice-pledging scheme.
The commission has summoned Yingluck to acknowledge the charges on Feb. 27.
44 injured in Thai police's operation to retake rally sites
BANGKOK, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- At least 44 people were injured Tuesday in a clash between Thai police and anti-government protesters while the police were trying to retake a rally site near the Democracy Monument in Bangkok. Full story
Thai police arrest protest leader, retake rally site
BANGKOK, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Thai police on Tuesday morning arrested Rawee Mashmadol, an anti-government protest leader, in an operation to retake rally sites in the capital Bangkok.
The police have succeeded in retaking a rally site on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Bangkok Post reported. Full story