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General news >> Saturday March 24, 2007

PTV rally draws thousands of Thaksin backers

Manop Thip-Osod & WASSANA NANUAM

Operators and supporters of satellite-based People's Television (PTV) staged a rally at Sanam Luang yesterday amid extra tight security to attack the Council for National Security (CNS) and the government for banning its broadcasts.

The rally attracted around 3,000 people, including visitors who planned to take part in the Traditional Thai Sports Festival at Sanam Luang, which was later cancelled.

Some 1,800 fully kitted out riot police from the Metropolitan Police Bureau and Crime Suppression Division along with city municipal officials moved in on the rally-goers at about 5.30 pm to maintain law and order.

Some angry demonstrators reportedly threw bottles at the officers.

PTV executives asked the demonstrators not to attack the police as they said it might be used as an excuse to break up the protest.

A middle-aged woman was seen taking off her pha-tung wrap-around tubeskirt and waving it to chase away the police.

Early in the day, a brief scuffle broke out between the rally supporters and some 80 city municipal officials who tried to dismantle the stage. The two groups briefly clashed before police were called in to control the situation. Municipal officials were then pulled out to reduce tensions. No one was hurt in the scuffles.

City police commissioner Pol Maj-Gen Adisorn Nonsi yesterday led senior police to inspect the venue.

Phra Nakhon district director Roengsak Horaruang said the stage had been set up without permission. The venue was reserved for the sports festival which was to run until April 7. He said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) filed a complaint with police against PTV's organisers for encroachment.

The rally organisers arrived at Sanam Luang at around 3am yesterday and completed the makeshift stage at 5am.

PTV executives Veera Musikapong, Chatuporn Prompan, Jakrapob Penkair and Natthawut Saikua, took turns criticising the Council for National Security (CNS) and the government for earlier blocking the station's broadcasts.

They said they would dismantle the stage after the rally ended at about 10pm.

Meanwhile, Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, urged the PTV organisers to clearly state that their rally was part of political activities of the Thai Rak Thai party.

He said no one was convinced by acting Thai Rak Thai party leader Chaturon Chaisaeng's earlier remarks that his party had nothing to do with PTV.

The station was set up by a group of former Thai Rak Thai executives.

Copies of Mr Thaksin's photo with a message "We can wait" were distributed to the participants. One protester was seen holding a Shinawatra family photo.

CNS chairman Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin yesterday put soldiers on high alert and enforced the Pathapee 149 (Protect the Land 149) riot control plan.

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