Clashes, arrests as Thai police raid protest sites
By Aidan Jones, AFP
February 18, 2014, 2:19 pm TWN
Bangkok - Thai riot police clashed with opposition protesters during an operation to seize back besieged government buildings in Bangkok on Tuesday, resulting in at least 25 injuries and dozens of arrests.
It was the first time that so many protesters have been detained since mass rallies seeking to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra began more than three months ago.
Several police officers were among those wounded after security personnel armed with batons, shields and helmets moved to clear a rally site near the government headquarters.
A total of 25 people were hurt, some by rubber bullets, according to the city's Erawan emergency medical centre, which said one of the wounded was in a serious condition.
One police officer was rushed away from the scene of the clashes with a head wound, according to an AFP reporter.
Demonstrators rejected a police demand to leave the area around Yingluck's offices within one hour, a day after they poured buckets of cement onto a sandbag wall in front of a gate to the compound.
"The government cannot work here anymore," said a spokesman for the anti-government movement, Akanat Promphan.
"The arrests don't affect us. The will of the people is still strong. The government is trapped. It has no way forward."
About 100 opposition demonstrators were arrested at a different rally site at an energy ministry complex in the capital on charges of violating a state of emergency, National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut told AFP.
The protesters are demanding Yingluck resign and hand power to a temporary, unelected government that would carry out reforms to tackle corruption and alleged misuse of public funds before new elections are held.
Years of rival protests
Thailand has been periodically rocked by mass demonstrations staged by rival protest groups since a controversial military coup in 2006 that ousted then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- Yingluck's brother.
Eleven people have died and hundreds of others have been injured in political violence linked to the latest round of rallies, which have been targeted by a series of grenade attacks and drive-by shootings by unidentified perpetrators.