BANGKOK Feb 22 Supporters of Thai Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the target of weeks of sometimes
violent street protests, denounced opposition threats against
businesses linked to her family on Saturday ahead of a gathering
of their leaders.
Anti-government protesters have blocked key Bangkok
intersections with tents, tyres and sandbags, seeking to unseat
Yingluck and halt the influence of her billionaire brother,
Thaksin Shinawatra, an ousted former premier regarded by many as
the real power behind the government.
This week they targeted businesses linked, or once linked,
to the Shinawatra family, sending stock prices tumbling.
"What we don't like right now is their involvement in
threatening companies on the stock exchange that is not involved
with government," Tida Tawornseth, chairwoman of the United
Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), told Reuters.
"It's a move away from government into business."
The protests have already taken a toll on the economy, on
tourism in particular, with arrivals in Bangkok sharply down.
The UDD, a "red-shirted" protest movement based largely in
Thailand's populous north and northeast, is holding a meeting of
its leaders from across the country on Sunday in Nakhon
Ratchasima, north of the capital.
Generous subsidies for farmers in the north and northeast
were a centrepiece of the platform that swept Yingluck to power
in 2011, but they have left Thailand with vast stockpiles of
rice and a bill it is struggling to fund.
"WE'RE NOT INVOLVED IN POLITICS"
About 500 anti-Thaksin protesters gathered this week outside
the Bangkok offices of SC Asset Corp, a property
developer controlled by the Shinawatra family, waving Thai flags
and blowing whistles.
Yingluck was executive chairwoman of the company before
being swept to power in a landslide election victory in 2011.
SC Asset's share price has lost almost 10 percent since
Wednesday and mobile handset distributor M-Link Asia Corp
, also with links to the family, lost 12 percent.
Other stocks affected include telecoms group Shin Corp
, founded by Thaksin before he entered politics, and
its mobile affiliate Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS)
which on Saturday sent an SMS to clients saying it
no longer has any connection with the Shinawatra family.
"AIS is not involved in politics and is not a pipeline for
any side," it said. "Dr. Thaksin and family have already sold
all shares in the company since 23 January, 2006, and from then
are no longer connected with the company."
Tawornseth said Sunday's rally would consolidate plans to
restore democracy after the opposition boycotted and disrupted
elections this month, leaving the country paralysed under a
caretaker government. She ruled out any plans for violence.
"If we wanted to clash, we would have done so a long time
ago," she said. "We wouldn't have to wait for this long."
Four protesters and a police officer were killed on Tuesday
when police attempted to reclaim protest sites near government
buildings. Six people were wounded by a grenade on Friday.
The protests are the latest instalment of an eight-year
political battle broadly pitting the Bangkok middle class and
royalist establishment against the mostly rural supporters of
Yingluck and Thaksin.
Demonstrators accuse Thaksin of nepotism and corruption and
say that, prior to being toppled by the army in 2006, he used
taxpayers' money for populist subsidies such as the rice scheme
and easy loans that bought him the loyalty of millions.