Thailand’s government on Thursday shut down dozens of websites and a television channel loyal to “Red Shirt” protesters who have occupied Bangkok’s commercial hub, defying a state of emergency.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is under increasing pressure to end the mass anti-government rallies, which have disrupted traffic and caused major shopping centres to close.
Abhisit cancelled his attendance at a Southeast Asian summit in Hanoi, where fellow premiers expressed concern about Thailand’s deep political rift, which pits Bangkok’s ruling elite against the mainly poor and rural Reds.
Leaders of the tens of thousands of supporters of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 military coup, have refused to halt their protests but the authorities have avoided using force to break up the rallies.
Instead, they targeted media loyal to the red-clad movement, shutting down its satellite TV channel showing rolling coverage of the demonstrations, along with 36 websites, and vowing to clamp down on pro-Red radio stations.
“We will not seek confrontation. We do not want to create conditions for instability,” said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn. Under emergency rule, “now officers can destroy the cars that block intersections and they will not have to pay for it,” he told reporters.
Thai court on Thursday issued arrest warrants for seven people involved in the storming of parliament a day earlier, including one anti-government protest leader, prime minister Abhisit said.