By Pairat Temphairojana
BANGKOK Feb 22 Some Thai anti-government
protesters followed the advice of their leader on Saturday,
shunning products of firms linked to the family of Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and handing back cellphone SIM
The protesters have blocked main 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
This week, they targeted businesses linked, or once linked,
to the Shinawatra family, sending stock prices tumbling and on
Saturday some answered protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban's call
to return their SIM cards belonging to mobile phone company
Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS).
The company promptly sent a text message to clients saying
it no longer had 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."
Aunjit Wongsampan, 65, lined up in central Bangkok to hand
in her SIM card.
"I think the signal is poor and I am changing it because the
company is too wealthy," she told Reuters.
When shown the company's text message, she said: "I don't
believe them any more. I have made my choice."
Yingluck's supporters denounced the targeting of business
when the protests have already taken a toll on the economy, on
tourism in particular, with arrivals in Bangkok sharply down.
"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 UDD, a protest movement largely made up of "red shirt"
Thaksin supporters based in the populous north and northeast, is
holding a meeting of its leaders from across the country on
Sunday in Nakhon Ratchasima, northeast of the capital.
STOCK PRICES SLIDE
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.
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.
Tida 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.
The former telecoms tycoon lives in self-exile to avoid a
two-year prison sentence for a graft conviction he says was