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Thai Government Cracks Down on Protest Media


A young red shirt supporter sits at the movement's protest site in downtown Bangkok

A young red shirt supporter sits at the movement's protest site in downtown Bangkok

The government in Thailand has cracked down on community newspapers, radio stations and Web site that supported the recent "Red Shirt" protest in Bangkok.

The government says the media are divisive, spread lies, and urged followers to commit violence during two months of protests in Bangkok. The protests ended in a military crackdown last month.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says "Red Shirt" broadcasters are a threat to national security.

"At one point they just announced for their viewers to capture [the] prime minister's wife and [the] prime minister's children and kill them. And, at one point they also announced that if [the] prime minister traveled to provincial places they just kill him. And, this certainly cannot be allowed in any country - in a democratic country at least," said Panitan.

Staff at the "Red Shirt" We Love Udon radio station managed to hide their transmitter before soldiers stormed in and broke their equipment.

Satellite dishes used to re-broadcast a red shirt TV broadcast lay battered and twisted at the station.

Two announcers and the station's head are under arrest. The station head, like many protest leaders, has been charged with terrorism and, if found guilty, could be sentenced to death.

His wife, Apon Sarakham denies the charges and says the authorities are trying to intimidate their opponents.

She says while they have been shut down, radio and TV stations opposed to the protesters are still allowed to operate. She says this is unfair.

The "Red Shirts" have long complained that the government uses double standards, and ignores media outlets run by so-called yellow shirts, who led protests in 2008 to oust red-shirt supported governments.

"Yellow Shirt" supporter Charoen Mookajonphan, who runs The People's Alliance for Democracy Radio station in Udon Thani, says his small station is threatened more by funding and electrical problems than the authorities.

He says We Love Udon Radio should have been shut down a long time ago, and he established his station in the "Red Shirt's" heartland to struggle against irresponsible media.

"If we stay still with nothing to explain, to retaliate to the station that tell a lie to the people then it's going to be a disaster for Thai society in the future," he said.

After two months of protests in Bangkok, during which more than 80 people died, the government says it is trying to prevent more violence. The government blames much of the violence during the protests, which ended in a military crackdown on May 19, on a hard-core of militants in the movement.

The government is embarking on a reconciliation plan to address the protestors concerns, such as income inequality. And officials say it is possible that elections will be held early. The "Red Shirts" had sought immediate elections.

But the government's effort to suppress the media has some Thais worried about censorship.

This Udon Thani resident supports the "Red Shirts" and says the government has made many accusations against them but presented little proof.

He says censoring the media is bad and a sign of dictatorship. He says red media should be free to protest.

The government says it will allow red media to operate once normalcy is restored to the country and media regulations are reformed to better prevent abuses.

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