Thailand: Police officer killed in operation to retake government offices

18th Feb 2014

A police officer has been killed during an operation by Thai police to reclaim occupied government sites. Authorities have vowed to regain control of Bangkok after protesters seized key institutions.

A police officer has reportedly been killed after Thailand’s caretaker government on Tuesday began an operation to retake key sites in the capital Bangkok, mobilizing at least 15,000 police.

“One policeman has died and 14 police were injured,” national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew told Reuters news agency. He said the policeman died of head injuries while on the way to hospital.

Riot-control officers, carrying shields, batons and tear gas, were deployed at least five sites in the city to clear protesters, under the operation banner “Peace for Bangkok Mission.”

As many as 100 demonstrators were arrested at the Ministry of Energy complex charged with violating a state of emergency.

A number of people are reported to have been injured in clashes, some by rubber bullets.

“We have taken back one of five protest sites that we aimed to reclaim, which is the Ministry of Energy,” National Security Council Chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told the Reuters news agency, announcing the arrests.

In an early morning raid, police rounded up scores of followers of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) 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.

Change in police tactics

Authorities appeared to embark on a  more combative strategy last Friday, with police confronting activists at Government House where Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been forced to abandon her office. Until then, the government had been reluctant to use force to clear sites.

There was renewed tension at the site again on Tuesday, with protesters gathering at the complex once again, engaged in a stand off with officers.

Protest movement leader Suthep Thangsuban made a direct appeal to police at the scene. “We are not fighting to get power for ourselves,” he told police lines. “The reforms we will set in motion will benefit your children and grandchildren, too. The only enemy of the people is the Thaksin regime,” he said.

Protesters have been rallying since November in their effort to depose Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 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 February 2 elections anulled, claiming they were flawed in favor of the Shinawatras. Reruns of voting in areas where protesters prevented voting taking place are planned for April 27, although the government has said it wants these much sooner.

rc/jr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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