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Police, mobs clash as Thailand unrest grows

– Police in Thailand fought off mobs of rock-throwing protesters armed with gasoline bombs who tried to battle their way into the government’s heavily fortified headquarters Sunday, as gunshots rang out in Bangkok and the prime minister fled a police complex during the sharpest escalation yet of the country’s latest crisis.

The protests, aimed at toppling Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration, have renewed fears of prolonged instability in one of Southeast Asia’s biggest economies.

Sunday marked the first time police have used force since demonstrations began in earnest a week ago – a risky strategy that many fear could trigger more bloodshed.

At least four people have been killed and 103 injured in skirmishes so far, according to police and the state’s emergency medical services.

The deaths occurred at a Bangkok stadium where shooting was heard Sunday for the second day and the body of one protester shot in the chest lay face up on the ground.

The unrest forced several of the capital’s biggest and glitziest shopping malls to close in the heart of the city and snarled traffic. Mobs also besieged several TV stations, demanding they broadcast the protesters’ views and not the government’s.

With skirmishes around Yingluck’s office at Government House continuing as darkness fell, the government advised Bangkok residents to stay indoors overnight for their safety.

Yingluck spent the morning in meetings at a Bangkok police complex but evacuated to an undisclosed location and canceled an interview with reporters after more than 100 protesters attempted to break into the compound, according to her secretary, Wim Rungwattanajinda.

“We want Yingluck to get out of power! She must go!” said Sothorn Kerdkaew, an agriculture student holding a Thai flag who was standing outside the police complex.