MANY POLITICAL LEADERS from around the region like to take a swipe at the foreign media from time to time, either to correct what they see as bias or perhaps to try to deflect domestic attention from other pressing issues. Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has had occasional run-ins with correspondents in Kuala Lumpur. To the south, Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew has sometimes vented his spleen at those he feet had overstepped the mark. This week, it has been the turn of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who instructed officials to remove from sale the January 10 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review, the regional news magazine. Following his order, police confiscated the Hong Kong-based Dow Jones publication from news-stands, and copies were also ditched from Thai International Airways flights. The magazine sells a little more than 7,000 copies in Thailand, out of a global circulation of almost 100,000. The source of the trouble - as is now well-known - was a brief article that appeared in the publication's 'Intelligence' section. Headlined 'A right royal headache', the 200-odd word piece suggested relations may be strained between the prime minister's office and the palace. In part, it mentioned a December speech by King Bhumibol Adulyadej - the country's most revered figure - that was widely seen as having been a veiled criticism of the Thaksin administration. Dow Jones officials confirmed they had received a letter from the Thai police outlining their concerns. Far Eastern Economic Review stood by its reporting. While the exact motives for Mr Thaksin's disapproval may be hard to pin down, the episode is worth noting for at least two reasons. First, it adds weight to suggestions that the Thai leader is extremely sensitive about his image and, second, it will only complicate Thailand's already mixed relations with the international investment community. Since taking power last year, the former business magnate has had a testy relationship with both the foreign and domestic media. Allegations have been made frequently that he has put pressure on journalists at television stations he owns to refrain from critical comment of him. Additionally, an article in November in the Asian Wall Street Journal, also published by Dow Jones, appeared to have rattled Mr Thaksin. That piece examined Mr Thaksin's two main roles - as political office holder and 'patriarch of the family that dominates the country's wireless telecommunications sector'. The writers declared the 'dual roles set up a potential conflict that Mr Thaksin, at times, hardly seems at pains to avoid'. After it appeared, reports followed in the Thai-language press saying state intelligence agencies had been detailed to 'check out the identities' of the writers. Nothing seems to have come of this, and there is a good deal of doubt in Bangkok circles whether there was any investigation at all. Still, the strong impression was made that Mr Thaksin is prone to take offence. As a commentator put it this week in The Nation, an English-language Bangkok daily: 'It may seem strange that one of Asia's leading telecoms magnates, whose fortune is derived from connecting people, is so thin-skinned when it comes to the traditional media, particularly the foreign media. 'But I suppose when one adopts role models like Singapore and Malaysia, our well-known democratic neighbours to the south, this is what you might expect.' One might also expect that the run-in with the Far Eastern Economic Review will further fuel the debate about Mr Thaksin's attitude towards foreigners and foreign investments in Thailand. After all, pulping one of the most respected regional news magazines is hardly a welcome sign to most people outside Thailand. Several times since taking power, Mr Thaksin has made remarks that suggest he leans towards a more nationalistic economic policy, at the expense of foreigners. Time and again, the head of the Thais Love Thais Party has been at pains to say he has been misunderstood. In one of his typical interventions, Mr Thaksin said Thailand needed to pursue a 'dual-track policy' that combined a focus on attracting foreign investment and producing exports, with a 'people-centred approach is to strengthen domestic demand and production'. At best, observers may find this confusing, at worst they may suspect that Mr Thaksin really does not extend a warm welcome to those from abroad, even if the country needs their help as growth lags and foreign investment falls away. Knocking the Far Eastern Economic Review will only do his - and Thailand's - image more harm.