Thai protesters enter opposition station

Thai protesters stormed a satellite station on Friday, breaching an army cordon in a three-day state of emergency.

Thai protesters enter opposition station

Thai protesters stormed a satellite station on Friday, breaching an army cordon and demanding officials lift censorship of their TV channel in the first major confrontation in a three-day state of emergency.

Security forces fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who climbed over rolls of barbed wire and forced open the gate of the compound, holding it for about three hours in defiance of an emergency decree on the 27th day of anti-government street protests seeking new elections.

Most of the soldiers pulled back from the Thaicom Pcl satellite station about 60 km (35 miles) north of Bangkok, leaving the grounds in control of the "red shirts" protesters, supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

Authorities entered the station a day earlier and seized equipment that took their People Channel channel off air, saying it was "inciting violence". Other channels were not affected.

"We want our TV back. You cannot shut our eyes and ears," Jatuporn Prompan, a red shirt leader, said from the back of a truck after leading the protesters into the compound.

The protesters started leaving the compound by evening, saying the company agreed to resume broadcasts. That claim could not be verified by the government, whose spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn has said the channel cannot go back on air.

"They are still distorting information and we cannot allow that," he told Reuters.

The protesters, who briefly besieged parliament on Wednesday, seized guns, batons, shields, bullets and tear-gas cannon from police and soldiers and displayed them at the station. A Reuters photographer earlier saw a policeman hitting a protester with the end of a rifle in the commotion.

Fourteen protesters, three police and a soldier were wounded, a medical centre said. One red shirt suffered a gunshot wound, most likely from a rubber bullet. Others had minor scrapes.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had said he will not order a crackdown on the mostly rural and working-class protesters who have also ignored orders to leave Bangkok's main shopping district since Saturday.

Abhisit faces pressure to either compromise and call an election he could easily lose, or launch a crackdown that could stir up even more trouble.

Most analysts doubt the authorities will use force to remove protesters from the shopping area -- a politically risky decision for Abhisit as his 16-month-old coalition government struggles to build support outside Bangkok.

Thousands of protesters remained at their main encampment near the upmarket department stores as hundreds of police entered police headquarters nearby. The reinforcement agitated some protesters who went to block gates of the police headquarters.

"A crackdown is very unlikely in the next few days unless some group does something crazy, like a serious bomb attack or an attempted attack on important figures," a senior military source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd had said security forces would maintain security and use "soft to harsh means".

Much of Bangkok was calm and life went on as normal. Many of the malls in the central shopping and hotel district, where the red shirts have camped out since April 3, had reopened.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Nisan 2010, 14:56