Thai protesters target businesses linked to prime minister

Government has been warned it can not use state of emergency to clear demonstrations

Anti-government protesters gather outside a business building owned by SC Asset Corp during a rally in Bangkok today. Photogaph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters.

Anti-government protesters gather outside a business building owned by SC Asset Corp during a rally in Bangkok today. Photogaph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters.

Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 07:18

Protesters campaigning for months to oust Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra turned their anger on businesses linked to her wealthy family today.

Ms Yingluck’s government appears increasingly hemmed in by opponents and the judicial system, lacking the fiscal powers to fund key policies and warned by a court yesterday that it cannot use a state of emergency to disperse protesters.

Four protesters and a police officer were killed on Tuesday, in the deadliest clashes since the unrest began in November, when police attempted to reclaim sites near government buildings that have been occupied for weeks.

The protesters are seeking to unseat Ms Yingluck and stamp out what they see as the malign influence of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a self-exiled former premier regarded by many as the real power behind the government.

About 500 protesters gathered outside the north Bangkok offices of SC Asset Corp, a property developer controlled by the Shinawatra family, waving Thai flags and blowing whistles.

“We will hamper all Shinawatra businesses,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters at a rally last night. “If you love your country, stop using Shinawatra products and do everything you can so that their business fails.”

Ms Yingluck was executive chairwoman of the company before being swept to power in a landslide election victory in 2011.

Shares in SC Asset fell 5 per cent today, following a similar fall the previous day. Shares in M-Link Asia Corp, a mobile handset distributor with links to the Shinawatras, have also lost almost 10 per cent over the past two days.

Problems continue to mount for Ms Yingluck, who has headed a caretaker government with limited spending powers since calling a snap election in December. Voting on February 2nd was disrupted, and it could be months before a new government can be installed.

An anti-corruption agency this week filed charges against her over a soured rice subsidy scheme that has stoked middle-class anger and left hundreds of thousands of farmers, her natural backers, unpaid.

More than 1,000 farmers, many riding in farm trucks, were travelling in convoy towards Bangkok from the central plains, the main rice-growing area, today.

Chada Thaiseth, a former member of parliament, said he would lead farmers to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

“We are not sure where we will set up camp, but we will not leave the capital until we are paid for every grain of rice sold,” Mr Chada told Reuters.

It was unclear whether the farmers intended to protest at the airport, which was blockaded for eight days by royalist, anti-Thaksin “yellow shirts” in 2008.

The protests are the latest instalment of an eight-year political battle broadly pitting the Bangkok middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly rural supporters of Ms Yingluck and Thaksin.