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NEWS UPDATES 10 April 2010

Thai security forces start reclaiming protest sites

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Thai security forces have deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse anti-government demonstrators at Makkhawan Rangsan bridge, close to Phan Fa bridge where the pro-Thaksin red-shirt set up their protest site last month, according to local media reports.

Around 3pm local time (GMT+7), troops fired blank shots into the sky and threw tear gas canisters at the protesters, forcing them to retreat to Phan Fa bridge. The protesters retaliated by throwing wooden sticks and other objects at the troops.

Meanwhile, in downtown Bangkok, operators of the BTS, the elevated train, suspended service of all skytrain stations after red shirts leaders called for the protesters to destroy all stations.

The moves Saturday seemed to indicate that authorities are close to cracking down on the so-called Red Shirt protesters, who have been carrying out disruptive protests in Bangkok for the past month.

Friday's confrontation between demonstrators and soldiers - in which unarmed protesters broke into the Thaicom transmission station and briefly restarted a pro-Red Shirt television station that had been shut down by the government under a state of emergency - raised questions about whether soldiers were willing to obey orders to use force.

Several thousand protesters pulled aside barbed wire and climbed over a fence to advance on about 500 soldiers inside the compound.

After scattered hand to hand scuffles, the troops retreated in disarray, some taking positions inside the main Thaicom building. After talks were held between protest leaders and the authorities, agreement was reached to allow People Channel to resume broadcasting, and protesters and soldiers left the site.

But several hours later, more than 4,000 army troops retook the transmission complex and cut off the People Channel's signal again. Friday's humiliating rout of troops and riot police raised questions about how much control Abhisit has over the police and army.




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