Thai protesters burn S’pore minister effigy

30 Jan 07

Hundreds of Thai protestors burned an effigy of Singapore’s deputy prime minister outside the Singapore embassy on Monday, after failing to receive an apology from the city-state over a recent diplomatic tiff.

The 200 to 300 protestors, coming from various groups such as Ramkhamhaeng University and Alliance for Northeastern People, burned an effigy of Singapore’s deputy premier S Jayakumar to protest his “private meeting” with Thailand’s ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra earlier this month.

“We are here to announce how stupid the Singapore government was to meet with Thaksin,” said Sathorn Sinpru, deputy leader of the Alliance of Northeastern People, believed to be an offshoot of the People’s Alliance for Democracy that led the anti-Thaksin protests last year.

The protestors last week had demanded an apology from the Singapore embassy for the Jayakumar meeting but none was forthcoming.

“If Singapore continues to deny us an apology we will take our protest to Udon Thani Airbase in North-east Thailand and chase their air force off the base,” said Sathorn.

Thailand and Singapore have enjoyed close diplomatic and military ties for decades, and bilateral relationship became even closer under former premier Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon who was prime minister between 2001 to 2006.

But things have changed since Thaksin was ousted by a military coup on September 19.

His high-profile activities in exile, including his meeting with Jayakumar and his use of Singapore to conduct interviews with CNN and the Wall Street Journal, drew protests from the Thai government.

The Thai foreign ministry has argued that Singapore’s stance towards Thaksin was inappropriate given the city-state’s close business relations with his family.

A year ago Temasek Holdings, the Singapore government’s investment arm, bought his family’s 49-per-cent stake in Shin Corp, Thaksin’s business empire, for 1.9 billion dollars in a tax-free deal.

Many Thais regarded the purchase as selling off sensitive national assets to a foreign company.

Shin Corp’s holdings include Advanced Info Service, Thailand’s largest mobile phone service, Shin-Sat, the national satellite network; and ITV television.

The sale sparked both anti-Thaksin and anti-Singapore protests in Bangkok last March and April.

%d bloggers like this: