Thailand: Red Shirts Defy State Of Emergency

Today, the anti-government movement of the “Red Shirts” took back a satellite TV station despite Thailand’s government media shut down of Thursday following the declaration of a state of emergency. Thousands of Red Shirts stormed the TV station compound overrunning an army barricade, and despite the security forces firing water cannons and tear gas. The Red Shirt successfully climbed over rolls of barbed wire and put their TV station back on air.

The defiant and growing movement of the Red Shirts are vowing to retaliate the government media shut down by escalating their month-long protests. The demonstrators attempt to drive beleaguered Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva out of office by forcing new elections.

The confrontation is part of a long running struggle between the mostly poor and rural supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 by a military coup, and Thailand’s urban upper class supported by the military.

Beside shutting down PTV, the satellite station that the Red Shirts took back today, the government has also banned more than 36 web sites connected to the opposition movement. Today, a Red Shirts leader, Nattawut Saikua, told followers that “the media blackout is just the first step for the government to clamp down on us. If this is so, we are going to raise our protest to the maximum level”.

Arrest warrants have been issued for 24 leaders of the Red Shirts. The group, who support former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra, argues the current government is illegitimate.

“The government is not concerned about people lives but worries that glass at shopping malls may be shattered. That is why the government has not yet used more brutal force against us,” said Jatuporn Prompan, one of the Red Shirt movement’s leaders, who has immunity from arrest because he is a member of Thailand’s parliament.

Prime Minister Abhisit had to cancel a trip to Hanoi where he was supposed to attend a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in order to deal with Thailand’s internal social unrest. Abhisit faces some very difficult decisions in the coming days. Although, the military has now greater power to crack down on protesters, both Abhisit and the army know a crackdown could result in bloodshed, and increase the already dire political crisis. Abhisit other option is to compromise and call for an election which he could easily lose.


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