BANGKOK — Supporters of Thailand’s embattled prime minister chained shut the headquarters of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Wednesday, a day before it plans to charge her with mishandling a government rice subsidy program.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s supporters, called Red Shirts, are copying the tactics of her opponents, who have blocked roads and government agencies since December to pressure her to resign.
The Red Shirts believe the antigraft agency is persecuting the prime minister. They have built a stage at their demonstration site and said they will bar the anticorruption commissioners from their offices Thursday. Several chained themselves to the office’s gates.
The rice subsidy program — a flagship policy of Yingluck’s administration that helped win the votes of millions of farmers — has accumulated losses of at least $4.4 billion and has been dogged by corruption allegations. Payments to farmers have been delayed by many months.
Yingluck’s opponents want to replace her government with an appointed council that would introduce vaguely described anticorruption reforms.
The Red Shirts have generally kept a low profile during the months of antigovernment protests, but as Shinawatra’s government comes under greater threat of legal action that might force it from office, they have said they will respond in force, if necessary.
Shinawatra could eventually face impeachment by the Senate or criminal charges if the commission delivers a final ruling against her. She is in northern Thailand and is planning to send a representative to hear the charges against her Thursday.
The aggressive street protests by antigovernment demonstrators have already disrupted the ability of the government to function, with Shinawatra also limited in her powers because she is now a caretaker prime minister after calling early elections.
The volatile situation has worsened recently, with shootings and grenade attacks on antigovernment protest sites. Along with earlier clashes involving battles with police, 22 people have died and hundreds have been hurt in the political violence.
The deaths of four children in attacks this past weekend caused shock and sorrow but seemed to have only hardened the positions of both sides.
A grenade believed to have been fired from a M79 launcher exploded in the parking lot of public TV broadcaster TPBS on Wednesday night, damaging several cars but causing no casualties. Thai media reported that another two grenades were apparently fired at the nearby offices of the government’s emergency peacekeeping task force but failed to explode.
Antigovernment protesters gathered earlier Wednesday outside National Police headquarters to demand justice for victims of the attacks. The protesters, who employ their own unofficial armed guards, generally bar police from their protest. They have successfully sued in sympathetic courts to prevent police from acting against them even when they are breaking the law.