PM's pressure on banks is staunching credit, claims publisher The outspoken publisher who organised a string of massive street protests in Bangkok this year against embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has hit a financial crunch that may shut his English-language newspaper. Sondhi Limthongkul, a former ally turned enemy of Mr Thaksin, has delayed paying workers at Thai Day, which was launched with great fanfare last year. Budgets have also been slashed at his struggling Asia Satellite TV network, and salaries have been held back. Earlier this month, Mr Sondhi warned employees at Thai Day, - distributed as an insert in the International Herald Tribune - that local banks were refusing to extend credit to him, a policy he blamed on pressure from Mr Thaksin and his allies. He told the South China Morning Post yesterday that his ability to transfer cash between different arms of his business empire had been affected, and admitted that he was low on cash to keep the newspaper and TV network running. But he denied that he planned to close Thai Day. Employees said they did not expect the newspaper to survive. One reporter estimated that one-third of staff had left in recent months, leaving the newsroom with a skeleton crew and plummeting morale. 'I think it's going to close. It's just a matter of time. That's why everyone is leaving,' the reporter said. Mr Sondhi alleged that Mr Thaksin was threatening his advertisers with tax audits and leaning on banks to cancel overdraft facilities, to force him to close his media outlets. 'It's become a personal vendetta against me,' he said. 'I'm the one who stood up to fight him [Thaksin].' Mr Sondhi said his flagship Manager newspaper and other Thai-language titles had suffered less from the cash crunch, as they generate advertising that has been notably absent from Thai Day since its launch in June 2005. Manager's circulation reportedly soared during Mr Sondhi's high-profile campaign to oust Mr Thaksin in the run-up to the April election that was annulled by the Constitutional Court. Thai media outlets are tightening their belts as slower economic growth starts to choke consumer spending, causing companies to cut back on advertising. State spending is also affected by the political vacuum as the current fiscal year expires at the end of September without a sitting parliament to pass a budget. After Mr Thaksin took power in 2001, Mr Sondhi's business was resurrected with lucrative contracts to produce prime-time shows on state TV. He had, from the end of 1998, been declared bankrupt, with debts estimated at 20 billion baht (HK$4.2 billion), and had closed a regional English-language daily, Asia Times. Mr Sondhi began praising Mr Thaksin as the best premier of his generation, and his media outlets lauded the government's achievements. But the relationship soured, for reasons that remain unclear, although Mr Sondhi insisted that his motivation was to stop a 'dictator'. After months of public tirades against Mr Thaksin, Mr Sondhi joined a coalition of activists to push for the government's ousting, culminating in street marches that swelled to more than 100,000 participants in March. The coalition has fallen largely silent in recent months. Adding to his financial woes, Mr Sondhi is among three defendants in a 1 billion baht libel suit brought by Mr Thaksin over claims that his political party was anti-monarchist.