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4 die as Thai police, protesters clash

- Demonstrators resist attempts to remove them from streets near PM’s office

Bangkok, Feb. 18: Four persons, including a police officer, were killed and at least 64 were injured today as anti-government demonstrators resisted attempts by thousands of riot police officers to dislodge them from the streets surrounding the Prime Minister’s office.

Protesters, who for the past three months have sought to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and have hampered elections, remained defiant as thousands of officers cleared away barricades that protesters had erected on a bridge near key government offices.

“We insist that we will remain in the seized areas because we don’t want the cabinet and Prime Minister to return and use their barbaric powers,” said Ekanat Prompan, a former MP who is a spokesman for the protest movement. Ekanat, who spoke on Thai television, said protesters were “peaceful and unarmed” and accused the government of using weapons against them.

But a photographer, Jack Kurtz, was among several witnesses who said he saw a man among the protesters carrying an assault weapon. Kurtz reported on Twitter that protesters had pushed out photographers when gunfire started and instructed them to stop taking photographs.

At least 20 of the injured were police officers. One police officer who was shot in the head and previously listed as dead by state media was later reported to be in a critical condition.

The Thai news media reported that one of the civilians killed was a protester. The identities of the other victims was not immediately known.

The government said that a grenade had been used against the police and that tear gas had been fired by the protesters — not by the police.

Photos in the Thai news media showed a badly wounded police officer whose legs appeared to have been injured by an explosion.

Led by a former deputy Prime Minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, the movement opposing Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former Prime Minister, has been part protest, part insurrection. The protesters have powerful allies in the Thai bureaucracy and elites who resent the dominance of the Shinawatra family in politics.

 
 
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