Disgruntled publisher Sondhi Limthongkul has drawn large crowds in recent weeks with his anti-government invective, but turning his newfound popularity into political clout may prove beyond his means. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the object of Mr Sondhi's wrath, initially tried to silence his critic by cancelling his controversial talk show on state television and suing him and his media company for criminal defamation. That strategy appeared to backfire, though, as Mr Sondhi raised his public profile by turning himself into a champion of media freedom and integrity who dares to criticise an authoritarian leader. Last Friday tens of thousands of people gathered at a park in Bangkok to watch Mr Sondhi via a video link from a temple in northeastern Thailand. He railed against the government for abuses of power, including the replacement of the ageing head of the Buddhist clergy. More controversially, Mr Sondhi has also alleged that Mr Thaksin's government is usurping the powers of Thailand's revered monarch, a claim that led to a police official trying unsuccessfully to charge Mr Sondhi for lese-majeste. Many of those in the crowd on Friday were cautious on the political meaning of the event. They said they simply worried that the government was massaging the news and wanted to hear the other side of the story. 'I came here because I want to know what information is being hidden from us by the government,' said a sales representative. Mr Sondhi told the crowd he would resume his talk show on December 9 and predicted as many as 500,000 people would show up. This week's appearance has been cancelled in deference to King Bhumipol, whose birthday next Monday is a public holiday. For Mr Sondhi to turn a mobile talk show into a political rally capable of rattling the government may be a step too far, though. His supporters have evoked memories of violent clashes in the past between military leaders and democracy activists, including the resistance against Thailand's last military coup in 1992. They say Mr Thaksin's brand of populist autocracy has driven Thailand into a dangerous corner and could unleash a popular reaction. However, analysts warn that any momentum could quickly fizzle out if the public is persuaded that Mr Sondhi, a former Thaksin ally who once praised his economic programme, is not offering any credible alternative. 'This is a personal vendetta for motivations that remain unclear, rather than a real movement for Thai democracy,' said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.