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Thailand 26 August 2008

Opposition protesters storm government TV station

Reporters Without Borders condemns an assault by members of the opposition People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on the offices of the government-controlled National Broadcasting Service of Thailand (NBT) today in Bangkok. Broadcasts were suspended for several hours and one of the station’s presenters was attacked.

"The opposition has the right to criticise a station for being too sympathetic to the government, but using violence against a news organisation is deplorable," Reporters Without Borders said. "We call on the PAD’s leaders to stop this kind of behaviour, which puts government media journalists in danger. The authorities, for their part, should ensure fair opposition access to the state-controlled media."

At around 6 a.m., some 60 masked PAD activists tried to storm one of the NBT buildings on Bangkok’s Vipavadi Avenue. About 2,000 other opposition supporters joined them and they forced their way into the building’s lobby. NBT staff reacted by suspending broadcasts. Broadcasting resumed from mobile units at around midday, while opposition groups were still in the building. Other stations provided live coverage of all the PAD’s protests.

One of NBT’s presenters, Kitti Singhapad, was punched by a PAD activist while he was being interviewed near the NBT building by another TV station.

According to reports, the police arrested about 80 opposition activists, some of whom were armed. One of the PAD’s leaders, Sondhi Limthongkul, a media owner and opponent of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, denied that his supporters were armed.

PAD protesters also invaded several ministries and the office of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, demanding his resignation.

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