Apr 08

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Thailand: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Declares Martial Law to Control Protests (Bloomberg)


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Anti-government “red shirt” protesters wave a Thai national flag in the main shopping district in Bangkok (Reuters)

Thailand’s Government has taken decisive action to close down the propaganda machine of the anti-government protesters, but an official spokesman has continued to insist that force would not be used to disperse the crowds now besieging the nation’s capital in their thousands.

In a move that has been compared with Thailand’s restrictive bans on reporting news concerning the royal family, the protesters’ “People” satellite television and internet networks were suddenly blocked today.

The closure was precipitated by the state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday, Government minister Sathit Wongnongtoey told reporters, and it was part of the plan to return Thailand to “normalcy”.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protesters, widely known as red-shirts, have been broadcasting on the People Channel from an intersection in Bangkok’s prime retail shopping strip.

Camped out at the Ratchaprasong intersection since the weekend, the red-shirts have blocked traffic and effectively forced the closure of as many as six large shopping malls and hampered the trade of two five-star hotels.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told journalists today that closing down the People Channel was crucial to the Government’s plan to prevent hostilities in Bangkok escalating.

“The key operation last night and today is to make sure that we can control some media channels that try to tell people to break the law,” he said. “This is the first time the Government has done that.” Continue reading »

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Apr 08

April 7 (Bloomberg) — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared martial law in the capital after protesters stormed parliament, testing the army’s willingness to break up four weeks of mostly peaceful demonstrations.

About 3,000 people entered the gates of Parliament for about two hours and thousands more occupied Bangkok’s commercial district for a fifth day. The emergency decree bans gatherings of more than five people, allows detention without charge and gives soldiers immunity from prosecution.

“The law doesn’t mean we aim to crack down or hurt people, especially innocent people,” Abhisit said in a televised address. “The nation has been severely affected by the protests and the government needs to rectify the situation.”

The protesters, many loyal to exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, grew in confidence after police and soldiers abandoned attempts to disperse them yesterday. Army Chief Anupong Paojinda enforced orders from Abhisit a year ago to break up rallies by the same group that turned violent, something he may be reluctant to do this time.

“Declaring martial law may backfire on Abhisit,” said Michael Nelson, a lecturer at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “If Anupong sees this as a political problem, an emergency decree may not prompt the military into action.”

Abhisit, who has been living in an army barracks, said protesters have breached the constitution and he declared the demonstration illegal. The law would also prevent misinformation and help stop sporadic grenade attacks that have hit the capital over the past month, he said. Continue reading »

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