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Thai Anti-Government Protesters Threaten Consumer Boycott of Singapore


In Thailand, protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra say they will boycott products from Singaporean and Thai companies, unless a controversial stock sale by the prime minister's family is stopped. Hundreds of protesters made the demand during a demonstration in front of the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok.

With shouts of "shame on you" and "Thailand is not for sale," the demonstrators delivered a letter to the Singaporean ambassador, Thursday.

The letter demands that Singapore's Temasek investment firm abandon its $2 billion stock purchase in Shin Corporation, founded by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The demonstrators say, if the sale goes ahead, they will boycott goods and services from Singaporean companies and subsidiaries of Shin Corporation -- which include mobile telephone, television and air transportation operations.

The Singapore Embassy issued a statement saying the government could not influence a private business deal.

Thailand's Senate Foreign Relations Committee has also urged Singapore to reconsider the purchase for the sake of good bilateral relations.

The boycott is the latest tactic by anti-Thaksin groups, after four mass demonstrations in the past month. They are demanding the prime minister resign for alleged corruption and abuse of office.

Mr. Thaksin has responded by dissolving parliament and setting elections for April second -- three years early. But the three main opposition parties are boycotting the vote, saying elections under his government will not be fair.

Mr. Thaksin is plowing ahead, campaigning outside Bangkok.

The prime minister says the opposition is afraid of losing but he is playing by the rules, which were drafted by others. But he adds that he is willing to meet the opposition anytime, anywhere, to seek a resolution to the political standoff.

Opinion leaders in Thai society - including the head of the armed forces, the spokesman of the Thai police and an advisor to the royal court - this week urged the two sides to seek a compromise to the crisis.

A small bomb exploded Thursday outside the home of the head of the royal advisory (Privy) council, injuring one person. No one claimed responsibility but Mr. Thaksin blamed it on people trying to create more trouble during the political crisis.

The standoff has begun to worry investors. The Thai stock market has lost more than four percent since just before the Shin sale was announced.

Shares of Shin Corporation on Wednesday fell by eight percent in low trading and the overall market fell two percent due to fears that the deal might be unraveling. The stock Thursday closed unchanged from the previous session.

But Singaporean company officials say the sale will go ahead. Thursday was the last day of a tender offer for outstanding shares that was required by Thai law.

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