- - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

BANGKOK — An eruption of gunfire and explosions killed four people and injured at least 64 Tuesday, when hundreds of riot police tried to remove protesters’ barricades from the capital’s streets — pushing the death toll to 14 in clashes that have hobbled downtown Bangkok since November.

Meanwhile, the National Anti-Corruption Commission ordered caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to appear before the panel Feb. 27 to face allegations that she was negligent in a massive rice subsidy program that has failed to pay many farmers for their crops.

The allegations could lead to criminal and impeachment charges against Ms. Yingluck, whose government has been beset by protesters clamoring for her ouster. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Tuesday’s violence marked Bankok’s bloodiest day since April 2010, when several weeks of clashes between security forces and protesters tallied dozens of deaths and injuries.

In Bangkok’s streets, riot police initially used truncheons, tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters who hurled rocks and other debris to defend their barricades across a wide main street in front of Democracy Monument near Phan Fa Bridge. Protesters refused to clear their barriers of barbed wire, car tires and construction blocks, and increasingly became violent, prompting police to resort to live ammunition.



One Western photographer said he saw a protester firing an assault rifle who was accompanied by a man who picked up the weapon’s ejected casings.

Nearby, a grenade landed at the feet of riot police who were behind their shields to avoid protesters’ assaults. One officer tried to kick the grenade away, but the blast severely wounded his leg and injured several other officers.

The explosion was shown on several TV channels.

Police retreated at nightfall, unable to clear the barricades after clashes killed three male protesters and one policeman, and injured at least 64, according to the Erawan Medical Center, which monitors hospitals.

Protesters kept up their blockades around Ms. Yingluck’s office at Government House, which have prevented her from working there for several weeks, and at the Interior Ministry and five key intersections. Police on Tuesday cleared the besieged Energy Ministry and arrested about 100 protesters.

The blockades have severely damaged the government’s ability to rule, but Ms. Yingluck’s other major challenge is in the courts. Judges and lawyers are probing her administration on allegations of corruption and other possible violations.

To help rice farmers during the past two years, the Yingluck administration created subsidies for farmers by promising to pay them up to 50 percent more than international prices for their rice.

The government hoped to stockpile large quantities of rice until the international price increased, and then sell the stored rice at a profit, benefiting the farmers and the country.

The plan faltered when worldwide rice prices dropped and Thailand’s rice warehouses began overflowing amid allegations that farmers, millers, traders and others were deviously maneuvering the stockpiles to profit themselves.

Angry, unpaid rice farmers now are considering joining the anti-government protesters to force Ms. Yingluck’s government out of office, after banks on Monday were unable to secure loans that could have allowed some payments to be made.

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