TVs go blank as Thai PM vows camp takeback

Thai authorities will retake the anti-government protest site in Bangkok, the prime minister said Sunday in a television address made with the army chief, without disclosing when.

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The “Red Shirts” rally encampment has for three weeks occupied the Ratchaprasong intersection in the heart of Bangkok’s retail district. The protesters fear a crackdown is looming.

“There will be a retaking of Ratchaprasong but the process, the measures, how and when it will be done we cannot disclose because it depends on several things,” Abhisit said.

Army chief General Anupong Paojinda appeared alongside the premier in an apparent gesture to show they are united, after Anupong earlier this week indicated he was extremely reluctant to launch a crackdown.

“We are an army for the nation, for the monarchy and for the people. We will do our job without taking sides. We will follow government policy,” Anupong said.

He also addressed rumours of rifts in the army, which has been sending out mixed signals on how it prefers to handle the demonstrators, after April 10 clashes that left 25 dead and more than 800 injured.

“As for a rift in the army, it is possible there will be rifts in a big organisation but the number of people who have different ideas are not many and this will not cause problems.” he said.

Screens go blank

During the address, screens went blank for several minutes Sunday after an unidentified party interrupted the satellite signal, officials said.

The pre-taped address, by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and General Anupong Paojinda, began at 0200 GMT but after a short while the television station it was being broadcast on went off the air.

“Someone has interrupted the satellite signal,” government minister Sathit Wongnongtoey told reporters.

Several minutes later the television station went back on the air and began screening the programme again from the start.

The address came after hopes for an agreement to end weeks of protests, which have been punctuated by deadly street clashes, were dashed as Abhisit on Saturday ruled out Red Shirts’offer to disperse if polls were called in 30 days.

“No, I reject it. Because they use violence and intimidation I cannot accept this,” he said of the proposal, which would have seen a ballot held in 90 days, and was a softening of earlier demands for snap polls.