Consumer groups leading the boycott campaign against Singaporean products and services yesterday claimed that the campaign is gaining momentum, with a particularly significant impact on mobile-phone service provider Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS), a Shin Corp subsidiary.
The consumer activists cited a recent ABAC opinion poll that shows that 11 percent of AIS subscribers who were interviewed said that they have already stopped using AIS services, while 10.5 percent said that they are planning to do so.
“The number is getting higher,” said Saree Aongsomwang, executive director of Foundation for Consumers, which has been calling on Thais to boycott Singaporean services and products as a way to pressure Singapore’s Temasek Holdings into withdrawing from the Shin Corp deal.
“Right now, AIS has 16.5 million subscribers. If 20 percent of them drops out, that means AIS will lose more than three million customers.”
AIS yesterday said that it can’t measure the impact of the boycott because the statistics are not yet available, but confirmed that there is a wave of customers dropping out from the company, and “ a few hundred” customers have canceled their subscriptions because of political reasons.
“People didn’t give us the main reason, only a few hundred subscribers said they are boycotting our services,” said Wichian Mektrakarn, AIS vice president.
Wichian said the company feels threatened by the boycott and has been trying to fix the situation by explaining its position to customers and launching several promotion programs, but the effort seems to be yielding no visible results.
“We try to explain to the ones who want to listen to us, and we are launching lots of promotion programs. But most people don’t pay attention, they are overwhelmed with political sentiment. It’s the emotional effect. There is nothing we can do [about it],” said Wichian.
The activists said their ultimate objectives are to pressure caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra into stepping down and stop the Singaporean government from buying into Thailand’s core businesses and so-called natural resources, such as Shin Corp.
“Normally, customers think they are powerless. We believe customers are king and they can do their own reform by boycotting services and products. We want to use the same power to support political reform,” said Saree.
AIS said its business has been slowing down in comparison with the same period last year, a situation shared by many other businesses, as most people are in a “wait and see” mood.
Wichian said, however, AIS won’t denounce the consumer groups for their campaign.
“They have the right and liberty [to do so]” said Wichian. “ We just try to provide the best services.”
21 Mar 2006
By Lan Anh Nguyen 20 March 2006 21:01