BANGKOK, THAILAND - FEBRUARY 18: A Police officer is carried to an ambulance after he was shot in the head by sniper fire during a police operation to reclaim the protest site at Phan Fa Bridge on February 18, 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai police tried to reclaim an area of land which anti government protesters have been occupying for the last few weeks but during the confrontation, police had to withdraw allowing the protesters back into the protest site. The recent controversial elections exposed an increasingly bitter divide in the country. After disrupting the general election, anti-government demonstrators are continuing their campaign to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the three week old 'Bangkok Shutdown, ' has blocked major intersections. The Thai government imposed a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and the surrounding provinces in an attempt to cope with the on-going political turmoil however this decree has had no effect on the mass protests. (Photo by Nick McGrath/Getty Images)
Camera catches attack on Bangkok cops
04:47 - Source: CNN

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Story highlights

NEW: The death toll from Tuesday's clashes rises to five, officials say

NEW: The number of wounded, both police and protesters, reaches 73

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is facing charges from anti-graft body

Police are trying to clear groups of protesters from the center of the city

Bangkok, Thailand CNN  — 

Thailand’s bitter political crisis intensified Tuesday as five people were killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and police, and the country’s anti-corruption commission filed charges against the Prime Minister.

The violence erupted in the heart of Bangkok after months of protests against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that have deepened political divisions in the Southeast Asian nation.

A police officer died after he was shot in the head, and four other people – at least two of them protesters – were also killed, officials said.

Seventy-three people, both police officers and protesters, were wounded in the clashes Tuesday, according to the Erawan Emergency Center, a medical unit monitoring the unrest in Thailand.

10 questions: What’s behind the protests in Thailand?

Police were trying to clear demonstrators, who have been campaigning against Yingluck for months in central Bangkok.

After police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse crowds of demonstrators in the streets, people among the protesters began firing guns at police.

With the two sides about 200 meters (656 feet) apart, police responded by firing rubber bullets and live ammunition.

During the firefight, which lasted about 20 minutes, a grenade exploded near a group of police officers, knocking them to the ground. At least four of them were wounded, said Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathabut, the national security chief.

Thousands of protesters

About 6,000 demonstrators were estimated to be on the streets of the city Tuesday, Paradon said, and thousands of security personnel have been mobilized.

Protesters opposed to Yingluck have been camped out since November at official buildings around the city, including Government House, the office of the prime minister and appointed cabinet ministers.

Leaders of the protests say they want Yingluck’s government replaced by an unelected “people council,” which would oversee electoral and political changes.

Clashes among pro- and anti-government groups had flared up during the crisis, leaving at least 10 people dead and hundreds wounded. The government responded by imposing a state of emergency last month.

Police move in

Until recently, authorities had largely refrained from confronting the demonstrators directly, even when they prevented large numbers of people from voting in recent elections.

That changed last week as police began attempts to seize sites occupied by protesters for months.

Government officials said the protesters’ actions were blocking public access to government services, making intervention by authorities necessary.

Officials claimed public sentiment was turning against the demonstrators. But the protesters have so far refused to give way.

Police said they arrested 145 protesters near the Ministry of Energy on Tuesday.

Rice subsidy controversy

As the violence unfolded on the streets, Yingluck faced pressure on another front when Thailand’s anti-corruption commission said it was bringing charges against her over a rice-subsidy program.

The National Counter-Corruption Commission said in a statement that it was calling Yingluck to appear February 27 to face charges that she failed to act on warnings of corruption in the program that her government introduced in 2011.

The program, which offered farmers well above the market rate for their rice, has run into financial problems. Problems with the subsidy program have angered many farmers, who make up part of Yingluck’s support base in the north and east of Thailand.

The anti-corruption commission’s charges could eventually lead to the suspension of Yingluck from all political positions.

In a televised speech before the commission’s announcement, Yingluck said the rice subsidy program