Monday, December 1, 2008

PAD: A Serious Threat to the Media

* photo copyright*

A snarling People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) thug at Government House proudly displaying seized police equipment.

It should not be a surprise that when an armed militia - illegally occupying government facilities, attacking and murders citizens, brazenly walking around Bangkok in military clothing, bullet proof vests, and armed with an assortment of weapons from rusty pipes to pistols - will start to clash with the press.

A few months ago, before the armed PAD thugs attacked the NBT television station, the relationship with the press was a little rocky but reporters were largely free to go about their business.

Yet the relationship between the press and PAD thugs has seriously degenerated.

My last time I was at the PAD encampment at Government House and the airport, on Friday November 28th, I was told repeatedly to stop photographing. One guard demanded I delete the photos I took of their sandbagged check point while another photographed me. I have also been filmed by PAD guards and followed while walking around Government House.

Yet, as a foreigner, it is easy to pretend NOT to speak Thai and then to NOT understand their broken English. I even said a few things in French to further obfuscate our conversations. I have been able to smile, fain ignorance, and walk away.

As the following report show, it is much harder and much more dangerous for Thai reporters.

From the Nation:

"A mobile TV technician and his driver almost got killed when they lost their way at an anti-government protest site yesterday...When the truck passed a second checkpoint, Phanumart and his driver heard many more shots so they speeded up. They found many bullet holes on the sides, tailgate and roof.

PAD supporters at rallying sites are keeping a close eye on reporters. They take photos of them and signal they should report only the good side of the PAD. Demonstration leaders designate specific areas for the media while reporters have to stay in groups for their own protection.

Ban Muang newspaper reporter Natthawut Karanyasophon said he was stunned when two PAD followers at Suvarnabhumi Airport told him to take off his white T-shirt marked with "Stop Violence". They told him the T-shirt missed the point as only the PAD was treated unfairly."

From the Bangkok Post:

"A photographer from the Thai-language newspaper Thai Rath says he was attacked by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) guards after he snapped them beating a man at Don Mueang on Friday night.

The photographer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was struck to the ground from behind by a PAD guard after he photographed another guard hitting the man about 9pm.

He was then surrounded by eight or nine guards who snatched his camera and accused him of being an imposter. He pleaded with them, to no avail.

More guards showed up and assaulted him further until reporters came to his aid, confirming that he was a real photographer.

"I've stayed with the PAD protesters and photographed them for six months. But now they are most hostile, a serious threat to media," he said."

Thanks to the ever vigilant Bangkok Pundit for pointing out these stories.

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