Manager Group boss prepares for new showdown after refusing to obey court order to cut out the barbs An outspoken publisher facing a series of lawsuits from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has refused to obey a court order to stifle his criticisms, setting the stage for a public showdown tomorrow. Sondhi Limthongkul also has been accused of lese majeste, a criminal offence in Thailand, after invoking the name of revered King Bhumipol during his outbursts. He said yesterday he had gone into hiding after police sought an arrest warrant against him. The latest skirmishes follow months of angry jibes between the prime minister and Mr Sondhi, a wealthy businessman who runs the Manager Media Group and once lauded Mr Thaksin as the saviour of the economy. In September, state television abruptly cancelled a talk show co-hosted by Mr Sondhi after its anti-Thaksin slant raised hackles. Mr Thaksin then launched civil and criminal lawsuits against the programme hosts for slander over the controversial appointment of an acting head of the Buddhist clergy. Undeterred, Mr Sondhi has taken his show on the road. Of late, he has staged increasingly packed weekly events in Bangkok where tens of thousands of people have turned out to hear his barbed comments on government policy and Mr Thaksin's authoritarian style. 'There's a lot of dissatisfaction among the masses about what Thaksin is doing,' he said. 'I'm the only one who dares to stand up against him despite the threats.' Mr Sondhi vowed to appear tomorrow at Bangkok's Lumpini Park to continue his public appearances and keep up the pressure. Last week, Mr Thaksin won a sweeping court-backed gag order on Mr Sondhi that forbids him from criticising the prime minister, but it appears to have done little to stop the vitriol. Mr Sondhi used last Friday's meeting to allege that Mr Thaksin's sister had used military aircraft to take her friends to a birthday party in her home town, Chiang Mai. He argues criticism of Mr Thaksin's family members is not covered by the order, which his lawyers are challenging in court. Thailand's powerful military has also weighed into the row. Army supreme commander Ruengroj Mahasaranond last week ordered Mr Sondhi to stop referring to the monarchy, evoking memories of past military meddling. On November 3, a small bomb was thrown into the compound of the Manager Media Group, causing no injuries. The government quickly denied any involvement. Analysts say the public spat with Mr Sondhi may have backfired on Mr Thaksin, who has successfully silenced many of his critics, including news media seen as hostile to him. Newspapers have struggled to fend off lawsuits and political pressure to toe the line. By contrast, Mr Sondhi appears to be relishing the high-stakes game and using the publicity to further his cause. 'This is unusual. In the past, with alleged intimidation, a lot of people stepped back, but Sondhi refuses to be intimidated,' said James Klein, representative of the Asia Foundation in Thailand. Although Mr Sondhi couches his fight as a free-speech issue, analysts say there could be personal or business grudges at play. They point out that his media outlets were supportive of Mr Thaksin during his first few years in office, when his company was emerging from bankruptcy. Mr Sondhi also concedes that he has other axes to grind. 'I don't see equal opportunities for businessmen under Thaksin. Only him and his business cronies are benefiting from [economic] growth.' Mr Thaksin has announced that he will not be speaking to the media until January because of unfavorable astrological movements, but has vowed to serve out the remainder of his electoral term that ends in 2009.