(23 December) Representatives of press associates have expressed their disagreement over anti-government protesters? assaults on a number of reporters accused of giving ?pro-government? coverage.
The incidents occurred during the mass rally in Bangkok called by People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State as the bid to unseat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from her caretaker position and replace her with an unelected ?People′s Assembly? to govern the country as a transitional government.
The protests paralysed parts of Bangkok as the demonstrators occupied key districts such as Victory Monument, Siam, and Asoke Intersection.
The protest leaders claimed over a million people attended the rallies, and some of the protesters were incensed at members of the press who reported a far lower figure.
One such journalist targeted by the protesters was Ms. Pengpan Laemluang, a Channel 9 (MCOT) reporter. She was speaking to the newsroom in a live coverage of the protests from her broadcast vehicle on Ratchadamnoen Avenue at around 16.00 when a group of anti-government protesters surrounded the vehicle, shouting and blowing their whistles at her.
The protesters accused Ms. Penpan of betraying the people by giving an inaccurate number of demonstrators – with one protester screaming that she is "Thaksin′s slave" – but Ms. Penpan, after finishing her broadcast, tried to tell the protesters that she did not mention any number.
Ms. Penpan′s words did not stop one protester from throwing a water bottle at her direction, and another man punched at her arm. The protesters also mobbed her, preventing her from leaving the protest site, while her assistant was likewise assaulted and MCOT broadcast vehicle vandalised.
Protest guards eventually escorted Ms. Penpan and her team away. Ms. Penpan later filed complaints at Dusit Police Station.
On the same day, a Channel 3 correspondent was also targeted by the protesters. The demonstrators heckled at Ms. Warunee Suesatsakulchai during her live coverage in front of Bangkok City Hall. Some protesters later tried to mob her, but her security team has prevented them from reaching Ms. Warunee.
"I will fucking punch you, no matter what gender you are!" one male protester shouted.
Although some speakers on the rally stage attempted to defuse the situation by telling the crowd not to attack the reporters, Mr. Satit Wongnongtoey, a PCAD activist and former Democrat MP, said on the stage that the protesters certainly exceeded 1.5 million – far more than the figure of 120,000 estimated by the police.
"This number is the truth!" Mr. Satit said, "It′s scientifically proven".
The protesters have previously claimed that the BBC put their attendance number at 5 million people, but BBC correspondent in Thailand, Mr. Jonathan Head, has said on his Twitter account that he never reported such number.
PCAD protesters have also assaulted a foreign photojournalist, Mr. Nick Nostitz, last month, after a PCAD leader accused him of being a ?Redshirt reporter?.
Concerned by the incidents, representatives of Thai Journalist Associations, Thai Broadcast Journalist Association, the Press Council of Thailand, and News Broadcasting Council of Thailand met with Mr. Ekkanat Prompan, the spokesman of PCAD, earlier today at Ratchadamnoen Avenue to discuss the matter.
The media representatives told Mr. Ekkanat that attacks on reporters are unacceptable, and Mr. Ekkanat agreed to appoint mutual coordinators who would bear the responsibility of defusing the tension if further confrontation takes place.
Mr. Ekkanat also proposed that broadcast vehicles of different agencies should be parked together in one spot for better security.
Meanwhile, PCAD secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters that he is upset by the reports of assaults on journalists, but said it is hard to prevent such incidents because protest volunteer guards are de-centralised and operated by different groups.
Mr. Suthep nevertheless promised to educate the protest guards to ensure a safe environment for journalists.
However, attacks or intimidation on reporters continue to occur today, with a group of protesters assaulting a Channel 7 reporter during the broadcast near Thai-Japan Dindaeng Stadium, the registration site for election candidates for 2 February 2014 poll.
When the Channel 7 news team aborted the broadcasting and started to pack up their equipment, several protesters seized the cables and told the news team that they were not allowed to leave until the protesters give them permission. The news crew eventually managed to leave the scene after some negotiation.
Speakers on the rally stage around the Stadium also criticised the media for providing "false" coverage of the protests, while scores of reporters were locked inside the Stadium for hours by protesters who were besieging the building to prevent political parties from filing their election bids.
Upset by constant verbal and physical intimidation from the protesters, many members of the press decided to withdraw from the rally later in the evening. No PCAD coordinator was visible throughout the confrontation, our correspondent added.