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Thai protesters break into satellite station

Police and soldiers fired water cannon and tear gas in a failed attempt to disperse thousands of protesters.

News18test sharma |

Updated:April 9, 2010, 4:13 PM IST
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Thai protesters break into satellite station
Police and soldiers fired water cannon and tear gas in a failed attempt to disperse thousands of protesters.

Ladlumkaew (Thailand): Thai protesters stormed a satellite station on Friday, breaching an army cordon and demanding officials lift censorship of their TV channel in the first major confrontation in a three-day state of emergency.

Police and soldiers fired water cannon and tear gas in a failed attempt to disperse thousands of protesters who climbed over rolls of barbed wire and forced open the gate of the compound, defying an emergency decree and upping the ante in their broader push for fresh elections.

Most of the soldiers pulled back from the Thaicom Pcl THCOM.BK satellite station about 60 km (35 miles) north of Bangkok, leaving the grounds largely in control of the "red shirt" protesters, supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

The protesters had not entered the main building, which houses a satellite uplink facility broadcasting the red shirts' People Channel. On Thursday, authorities entered the station and seized equipment that took the channel off air, saying it was inciting violence. Other channels were not affected.

"We want our TV back. You cannot shut our eyes and ears," Jatuporn Prompan, a red shirt leader, said from the back of a truck after leading the protesters into the compound.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the channel cannot go back on air. "They are still distorting information and we cannot allow that," he told Reuters.

The protesters, who briefly besieged parliament on Wednesday, seized guns, batons, shields, bullets and tear-gas cannon from police and soldiers and displayed them at the station. A Reuters photographer earlier saw a policeman hitting a protester with the end of a rifle in the commotion.

Many investors doubt even a violent impasse will derail a rebound in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy and one of the world's fastest-rebounding emerging markets. Thai stocks are up 76 percent over the past 12 months, Asia's third-best performer.

"We are not so concerned about the political situation in Thailand," high-profile emerging market investor Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Asset Management Ltd in San Mateo, California, told Reuters.

Frequent protests, violent riots, airport blockades and three changes in government in the past 19 months have dented consumer spending, economists say, but the prospect of prolonged strife is already priced into Thailand's relatively cheap stock prices.

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