Protesters seize state TV station in Thailand

August 26th, 2008 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Aug 26 (Xinhua) Anti-government protesters stormed into a state-run TV channel and forced it to halt broadcasting Tuesday, while a mass rally was assembling here to mount pressure on the Thai government to resign.Hundreds of members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a coalition of opposition parties, broke into the National Broadcasting Services (NBT) office in Bangkok and forced it to shut down for a few hours, the broadcaster said.

Extra police personnel were called in and some 30 protesters were detained before the channel resumed broadcasting.

The NBT quoted the protesters as claiming that the TV station should “belong to people”, so they wanted to seize it.

On video clips released later by the NBT, the intruders, who wore black cloth to cover their faces, broke a glass door of the NBT office building, got into the station in separate groups and told NBT staff members to leave the office.

The NBT reported some half an hour later that police found a pistol and knives from the group. Pictures also showed golf clubs and slingshots among the seized articles.

Outside the NBT building, hundreds of PAD protesters gathered to block the entrance to the building and hold up traffic on the road. The protesters said they besieged the TV station because the state-run broadcaster often criticised the PAD.

The PAD, a coalition of political opponents against the government led by Prime Minister Samak Sundaradej, has launched continuous rallies since May 25 in central Bangkok to pressure the Samak administration to step down. It called the current government a “proxy” of the coup-ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The PAD planned a mass protest at the Government House in central Bangkok Tuesday, as a showdown in their attempts to topple the six-month-old coalition government.

Thousands of protesters have gathered around the Government House and some ministry office compounds in Bangkok. Security was heightened at the Government House.

Thailand’s Supreme Commander General Boonsrang Niumpradit is reportedly chairing a meeting of military commanders to monitor the situation in the capital.

It is feared that Prime Minister Samak might declare a state of emergency in the capital to usher in military intervention in the PAD protests, but so far the premier has maintained restraint.

The Nation news group reported on its website that government deputy spokesman Natthawut Saikua said the PAD was coordinating with an underground movement to incite a coup to oust the government.

Natthawut was quoted as saying that authorities might have to round up selected protest leaders and certain military generals who are working behind-the-scene with the PAD.

He said the PAD has planned to disrupt the government from functioning in selected areas in the capital and upcountry. If left unchecked, the PAD might try to raid key airports and provincial halls along with trying to control strategic locations in the capital.

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