17 Mar 2006

Hundreds marched to Singapore embassy

The Bangkok Post

Bangkok (dpa) - Hundreds of Thai protestors marched on the Singapore embassy Friday renewing calls for a boycott of goods and services, after the city-state's purchase of the former business empire of Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

More than 600 protestors marched from Lumpini Park to the embassy compound waving banners reading "Close Relations With Singapore," Don't Buy Singapore Products, Don't Use Singapore Services and Banks,"and "Corrupt Thaksin Get Out, Don't Support Corrupt Temasek."

The protestors passed a letter to the embassy demanding the Singapore government end its 15-year agreement with Thailand to rent military bases in the kingdom and calling on Singaporeans to help their cause.

"We, on behalf of the Thai people, would like to call upon the people of Singapore to assist us by scrutinizing the business conduct of Temasek Holding and the rental of military bases in Thailand, as well as applying pressure on the Singapore Government to adhere strictly to transparency and good governance and to abstain from interfering in other countries' internal affairs by cancelling the purchase of Shin Corporation's shares and removing its military bases from Thailand," the letter said.

On January 23 Thaksin's family sold its 49 per cent stake in Shin Corp. - a holding company with investments in Thailand's mobile phone service, the national satellite network, a TV station, an Internet service and a no-frills airline - to Temasek Holding, an investment arm of the Singapore government.

The 73.3-billion-baht (1.9-billion-dollar) sale has outraged many Thais because it was tax free and amounted to selling off sensitive sectors to a foreign government.

The sale ignited mass protests against Thaksin that have spilled over into anger at Singapore. Last week about 1,000 anti-Thaksin demonstrators marched on the embassy to demand the Singapore government rescind the purchase.

Embassy officials told the protesters that the Singapore government has no say over Temasek transactions even though the holding company is wholly government-owned.

Temasek has acquired additional shares in Shin Corp. via a public tender and now holds 96 per cent of the corporate conglomerate.

The protestors gave Singapore until Friday to reconsider their demands, before they would renew calls for a boycott on Singapore goods and services.

Protests leaders claimed earlier Friday that their boycott would lead to at least 3 million subscriber cancellations of the Advanced Info Service (AIS), the mobile phone service owned by Shin Corp.

AIS is Thailand's largest hand phone service with more than 16 million users. Other services that have been targeted by the boycott include Singapore Airlines, the Singapore-owned UOB and DBS banks.

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