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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 07:59 GMT
Thai PM defends mobile firm sale
By Kylie Morris
BBC News, Bangkok

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
Mr Thaksin's opponents are questioning the deal
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been forced to explain the detail of a nearly $2bn deal to sell off a 49% stake in his family's corporate empire.

The sale last week of Shin Corp shares to a Singaporean company has created a political storm for Mr Thaksin.

Mr Thaksin described the deal to sell the family's shares as an effort to free him from allegations of any conflict of interest.

Now his family's lawyer has spoken out, denying any wrongdoing.

For five years, Mr Thaksin has denied any suggestion that he mixed politics with business and used his job to benefit the company he founded.

But this latest move - the largest buy-out in Thailand's corporate history - has prompted questions over insider trading, tax avoidance and advantageously-timed regulatory reforms.


The opposition Democrat Party has threatened to impeach the prime minister.

It has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate how his son and daughter were able to buy millions of shares just before the deal was done and then resell them for nearly 50 times as much, just three days later.

The country's Press Council and Law Society have criticised the sale, to Singaporean interests, of such a large stake in Thailand's mobile phone, satellite and television networks.

Newspaper editorials have warned the fortune the family earned from the sale could turn into political and legal misfortune for the prime minister.

On the street, even supporters of Mr Thaksin expressed surprise at the tax-free, $1.9bn deal for a prime minister who last month spent a week in a poor village vowing to eradicate poverty.

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