Thai protesters shun products linked to Yingluck Shinawatra's family

But mobile phone company hit by return of SIM cards says family sold its shares in 2006

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 5:45am

Some Thai anti-government protesters followed the advice of their leader yesterday, shunning products of firms linked to the family of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and handing back mobile phone SIM cards.

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 prime minister regarded by many as the real power behind the government.

Last week, they targeted businesses linked, or once linked, to the Shinawatra family, sending stock prices tumbling, and yesterday some answered protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban's call to return their SIM cards belonging to mobile phone company Advanced Info Service (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 [Shinawatra] and family have already sold all shares in the company since January 23, 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 said.

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.

"What we don't like right now is their involvement in threatening companies on the stock exchange that is not involved with government," said Tida Tawornseth, chairwoman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

The UDD, a protest movement largely made up of "red shirt" Thaksin supporters, is holding a meeting of its leaders from across the country today in Nakhon Ratchasima, northeast of the capital.

About 500 anti-Thaksin protesters gathered last week outside the Bangkok offices of SC Asset Corp, a property developer controlled by the Shinawatra family.

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 per cent since Wednesday and mobile-handset distributor M-Link Asia Corp, also with connections to the family, lost 12 per cent.