Protesters Take Over TV Stations in Thailand

Thailand Under Seige

Protesters in Bangkok, Thailand, remained on Sunday in control of five major broadcast news stations they took over two days prior to voicing their new demand to see an appointed prime minister ousted.

The People’s Democratic Reform Committee has been protesting the Taiwanese government since late last year, in particular the rule of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. A constitutional court removed Yingluck late last week, but his appointed replacement, Niwattharrong Bunsongpaisal, isn’t any more favored in Thailand.

In response, PDRC protesters stormed the broadcast stations they’d been blockading for weeks and took over the helm of Thailand’s channels 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11. They’ve been closely monitoring everything being broadcast since then to ensure their demands regarding the exclusion of government-slated reports are met.

Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, said Thailand won’t gain democracy by acting like fascists: “PDRC protesters’ occupation of television stations and threats against the media are not only illegal, but show an ugly disregard for freedom of the press. Press freedom is about allowing all views to be heard, not just those of one side.”

For instance, HRW reports, a German photographer named Nick Nostitz was just assaulted by PDRC security guards outside the courtroom where Yingluck was being removed as Thailand‘s prime minister. When Nostitz ignored the guards’ order to meet their leader, Buddha Isara, they pushed him around and tried to drag him away. However, police intervened after hearing Nostitz yelling for help. It was the second time Nostitz has been assaulted on the job in Thailand by the PDRC in a half-year, HRW reports.

“Growing political confrontations are putting journalists at risk from both anti-government forces and the government,” HRW’s Adams said. “Senior political figures on both sides of the divide should agree not to make the media the enemy, and immediately order their supporters to respect press freedom and the opinions of others.”

Yingluck was removed along with nine of her Cabinet ministers, but PDRC leaders say that her replacement hails from the same insider political machine that’s ruled over Thailand for decades.

Thitinan PongSudhirak, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, told CNN that the worst is quite possibly to come. “The post-Yingluck polarization is likely to deepen and intensify,” Thitinan said. “We are now looking at a political freefall…. Much worse looks likely in the near term, before we can hope for improved circumstances in the longer term.”

Yingluck was the third prime minister in a row linked closely to Thailand’s embattled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The interim leader, Niwattharrong, also is viewed as being close to Thaksin, who’s Thai Rak Thai party was eliminated in 2007.

According to Paul Quaglia, director of the PQA Associates analyst firm in Bangkok, [Niwattharrong] “lacks the stature and networks to see through an interim caretaker administration. Nevertheless, no matter who comes in as the new caretaker, the tensions will mount.”

[Image courtesy of Human Rights Watch]