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Thai Government Shuts Down Anti-Government TV Operation


In its first major step to counter anti-government protests, the Thai government shut down an opposition satellite TV channel. Government leaders are seeking to reassure the public it is not preparing a violent crackdown against the protests.

The government declared a state of emergency Wednesday as it stepped up efforts to contain the protests that are choking Bangkok. The emergency degree gives the government the power to control the media.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn accused the United Democratic Front Against Dictatorship of using the broadcasts to destabilize the political situation.

"As we are speaking, these channels are still broadcasting these hate messages, trying to persuade people that our prime minister is a dictator, breaking the laws, ordering people to be arrested or to be eliminated. These are not true and these are affected to the stability and security of the nation," said Panitan.

UDD spokesman Sean Boonpracong says the group is trying to find other ways to get information to supporters.

"From my stand point we are trying to resist with civil disobedience. And therefore as far as we are concerned by staying here - we will resist peacefully. Meanwhile, we stay put, hunker down for every other place all over the country that we are trying to restore People's Channel so people could watch - that is our main priority of the day," said Boonpracong.

For a month, the UDD has led massive rallies to pressure Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign and call new elections. The protesters say his administration is backed by the military and is illegal.

The protesters largely support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006. They say Mr. Abhisit is a proxy for a traditional elite that ignores the needs of the poor and farmers.

But UDD leaders said they are open to fresh proposals as part of talks with the National Human Rights Commission and four former prime ministers.

For days, the protesters, known for wearing red, have rallied close to major hotels and shopping malls that have been forced to close.

Although protesters say they expect a military crackdown, government officials are trying to reassure the public the emergency decree is meant to clear the crowds from commercial areas, but that peaceful rallies could continue elsewhere.

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