Thailand police retake opposition TV channel

11 April 2010 01:24 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Thai security forces have retaken an anti-government satellite TV station and stopped its broadcasts, after a day-long confrontation with protesters.
The red-shirted demonstrators had forced officials to put the People Channel back on air on Friday after the authorities had closed it down.

The authorities say the channel incites violence and spreads false information.

Over the past three weeks, protesters demanding new elections have paralysed parts of Thailand's capital, Bangkok.

The government had initially shut down the People Channel on Thursday under state of emergency laws.

The move sparked the most violent clashes seen yet in the ongoing protest.

On Friday, security forces used water cannon and tear gas against the demonstrators who gathered at the People Channel's transmission station, north of Bangkok.

The red-shirts threw stones and eventually overcame the security forces, storming the station.

Health officials said 15 people needed hospital treatment after the clashes - 11 protesters and four security personnel.

TV images showed police officers shaking hands and smiling with protesters as they retreated, prompting speculation of split loyalties among the security forces.

"After the incident, many members of the public said they were disappointed, hurt and discouraged by the pictures they saw," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a televised statement.

"Instead of the restoration of law and order, those who broke the law can do whatever they want. My feeling is similar to yours."

Shortly afterwards, the police retook control of the People Channel and closed it down.

One of the leaders of the red-shirts, Nattawut Saikua, condemned the move.
"[The authorities have] gone back on what they said to us. How can we let these kind of people lead our country? We have to fight on," he told crowds of supporters from a makeshift stage.

The red-shirts began their campaign on 12 March, establishing two camps in Bangkok - one at Government House and another in the commercial district, forcing some businesses to close.

They want Mr Vejjajiva to resign and call an election, saying his government is illegitimate.

The red-shirts are broadly drawn from the urban poor and rural areas, and many of them support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

They have vowed to defy the emergency laws with more rallies.

Arrest warrants have been issued for several of the protest leaders.

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