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PAD protesters intimidate the media

Pickup of TV station staff fired at; reporters forced to take off T-shirts with peace message

A mobile TV technician and his driver almost got killed when they lost their way at an anti-government protest site yesterday.

Phanumart Jaihork, a TNN relay controller, said his pickup truck came under heavy gunfire from People's Alliance for Democracy guards at Don Mueang Airport. The vehicle carried the logos of the company and TV station on its sides and a microwave transmitter in its bed.

After getting lost, they stopped at a PAD checkpoint in front of the passenger terminal to ask the guards for directions, when bangs were heard. The guards told them to rush to a safe place in the building.

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. No one was hurt.

PAD co-leader Amorn Amornratananont apologised to the two, saying the first bang misled the guards at the second checkpoint into believing that the intruders had set off an explosion to incite the protesters.

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.

Other protesters surrounded Natthawut as they thought he was bullying them. PAD co-leader Saranyu Wongkrachang stepped in and moved the media's work centre to another area of the site.

Natthawut said the Thai Journalists' Association encouraged reporters to wear the T-shirt while they covered stories at Government House to call for peace. Although he did not fear the protesters, he changed to another T-shirt to avoid more trouble.

On Saturday night, PAD supporters also forced a woman reporter to take off her T-shirt with the same message.

Co-leader Somkiat Pongpaiboon said PAD's supporters at Suvarnabhumi do not carry lethal weapons and a weapons-check was very strict.

However, they are engaged in warfare and the protesters might fly into a rage at anytime so it would be hard to guarantee anybody's safety, he added.

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