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Police fire tear gas at Thai protesters

From Anna Coren, CNN
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'Red Shirts' storm TV compound
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Thai protesters were rallying in front of Thai Com satellite firm
  • At least 18 arrest warrants issued for leaders of anti-government protesters
  • Protesters defied a state of emergency Friday and held nationwide demonstrations
  • "Red shirt" protesters demanding new elections, say PM was not democratically elected

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Thai police agreed Friday to restore the television signal for an anti-government group in the country on condition that protesters vacate the compound of the satellite center that distributes it, authorities said.

The signal for People Channel, or PTV, will be restored, said Krisda Pankongchuen, a police official. The protesters will have to pull out of the compound of Thai Com satellite firm in Bangkok.

During a rare show of force Friday, authorities fired tear gas at opposition supporters gathered outside the building to demand the government reopen their network.

The protesters, known as "red-shirts," are seeking to oust Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

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A day earlier, protesters demanded officials reopen their television station, which was shut down amid accusations of misinformation. Abhisit said the station was shut down "to restore peace and order and to stop the spreading of false information to the Thai public."

Video: Rubber bullets fired at Thai protesters
Video: Red Shirts defy government
Video: 'Red shirt' protests continue
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Meanwhile, at least 18 arrest warrants were issued Friday for leaders of the protesters who have rallied for weeks, leaving the Thai capital paralyzed. They defied a state of emergency and held nationwide demonstrations to demand new elections.

The emergency decree allows the military to break up large gatherings. It also allows authorities to take actions including arresting and searching people without court orders.

A spokesman for emergency officials said about 15,000 demonstrators were gathered Friday near Rajaprasong and Phan Fah areas, the main venues in the capital, Bangkok. The emergency decree prohibits protesters from entering the two main venues.

Red shirts cover streets 'like blankets'

Authorities said they arrested two suspects in motorcycles carrying a total of six homemade bombs. The two also had batons, electric shock equipment, body armor and communications equipment, police said.

One of the warrants issued was for Arismun Pongrungrong, a main figure for the opposition group. Arismun defied the order and attended the rallies.

Demonstrations affected Thai stocks, which plunged by more than 24 points, or about 3 percent, after the government declared the state of emergency.

The red shirts vowed Wednesday to intensify protests unless Abhisit dissolves parliament.

The anti-government group, United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, is made up of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006. He fled the country in 2008 while facing trial on corruption charges that he says were politically motivated. He remains hugely popular.

Protesters say Abhisit was not democratically elected and have demanded that he call elections.

CNN's Kocha Olarn in Bangkok contributed to this report.

 
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