Thai Protests Turn Ugly, 4 Killed
Protesters allegedly opened fire; 1 cop among the dead
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2014 8:45 AM CST
An armed Thai police officer, center, aims his rubber bullet rifle as medical team carry a injured person away during a clash between police force and protesters, Feb. 18, 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.   (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

(Newser) – Four people were killed and 64 injured in Bangkok today when police tried to break up an anti-government protest around the prime minister's office, one of several buildings protesters have tried to shut down in their campaign of obstruction. Gunfire broke out as thousands of police clad in riot gear descended on the crowd, the New York Times reports. A protester spokesperson said demonstrators were "peaceful and unarmed," but a photojournalist tweeted that a protester was carrying an assault rifle, that protesters fired shots, and that they "pushed us out of the area after the gunfire started, screaming 'no photo, no photo.'"

The government also alleged that protesters had thrown a grenade and fired tear gas. At least one of those killed was a police officer; another was shot in the head and is in critical condition. Police arrested more than 140 people, but protesters later managed to free a movement leader they'd detained. Police were more successful in driving protesters away from the Ministry of Energy, where they arrested 100 people, the BBC reports. Earlier they'd attempted to negotiate with protesters, who they have until now hesitated to use force against. The clashes came as Thailand's anti-corruption commission said it would file charges against the chief object of protesters' scorn, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, over a controversial rice subsidy. CNN has an interesting piece on how the subsidy has divided Thailand along regional class lines.