THAILAND: Protesters burn images of Lee, wife
Nearly 1,000 protest outside Singapore embassy against Temasek takeover of Shin Corp
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Anti-Thaksin demonstrators yesterday burned pictures of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Ho Ching, in front of the Singapore embassy to express displeasure with the takeover by Temasek Holdings of Shin Corp. Mrs Ho is executive director and chief executive officer of Temasek, the Singaporean government's investment arm.
Nearly 1,000 demonstrators massed at the embassy again yesterday after failing to get the Singaporean government to ask Temasek to pull out of the deal when they gathered there last week.
Wearing armbands and headbands bearing words such as "National Salvation" and "We Love the King", the demonstrators marched from King Rama VI statue at Lumpini Park to the Singapore embassy on Sathorn road while chanting "Thaksin Get Out" and "Temasek Get Out".
They also burned a drawing of the Merlion, Singapore's national mascot, with its face replaced by that of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and models of Singapore Airlines planes.
Rosana Tositrakul, core member of the People's Alliance for Democracy, read an open letter addressed to the people of Singapore asking them to "assist us by scrutinising the business conduct of Temasek Holdings 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."
The Lee Hsien Loong government, Ms Rosana said, had colluded with the government under Mr Thaksin in renting military bases in Udon Thani and Nakhon Ratchasima under 15-year leases, instead of year-by-year as in the past.
The Singaporean army has permitted the US army to share the bases and this caused concern among Thais and other countries in the region, Ms Rosana said.
Somsak Kosaiyasuk, another key PAD member, said Singapore's failure to intervene in the purchase of Shin Corp could cause a rift in relations between the two countries.
Nimit Tien-Udom, director of the Aids Access Foundation, appealed to Singaporean people to understand that the boycott of Singaporean products and services, especially those linked with Shin Corp, was a necessary measure to preserve Thailand's sovereignty and national assets.
"We firmly believe Singaporeans would rise up in the same way if faced with the same situation, as you did for the cause of independence in 1965," Mr Nimit said.
A 27-year-old woman Chinese language teacher led a chant in Chinese of "Thaksin, Get Out", "Temasek, Get Out" and "Singapore, Get Out". She said that she and her father had joined every rally since they started over a month ago.
Several cars and motorcycles honked and their drivers shouted in support of the demonstrators.
A group of businessmen who have launched a rally against Mr Thaksin was also met with cheers from hundreds of people from all walks of life along Bangkok streets yesterday.
Some 300 members of the Businessmen for Democracy group, led by Prasarn Maruekkapitak, drove a fleet of 100 cars from Lumpini Park to Makkhawan bridge, where they joined PAD demonstrators.
People on the streets cheered them on and shouted "Thaksin, Get Out!"
Mr Prasarn said it was not right for Mr Thaksin to claim support from 19 million voters when so many groups of people wanted him to step down.
A 58-year-old businessman who joined the Prasarn-led rally said he was a former admirer of Mr Thaksin.
But now his faith in the premier had been eroded.
Traffic police have asked PAD protesters to move away from the Ratchadamnoen Nok avenue to allow traffic through.
The protesters have blocked the avenue from the Royal Plaza to the army headquarters intersection. PAD co-leader Chamlong Srimuang agreed to talk with Traffic Police Division commander Panu Kerdlappol about the blockade but later refused to comply, feeling the need to continue to pressure Mr Thaksin.
Kittichai Saisa-ard, a member of the state enterprise unions network, said Government House has owed the electricity agency eight million baht since 2003. He said the union would call for executives to punish the government by cutting off the power supply.
Date Posted: 3/18/2006