Sondhi Limthongkul


Sondhi Limthongkul

Sondhi Limthongkul ( _th. สนธิ ลิ้มทองกุล; zh-tp|t=林明達|p=Lin Mingda, born 7 November 1947) is Thai media-mogul and leader of the right-wing People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Starting his career as a journalist, he later founded "Manager Daily" newspaper as well as satellite broadcaster ASTV. Originally a strong supporter of Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, he later became a leader of the anti-Thaksin movement.

Sondhi founded "Manager Daily" in 1982 after several ventures in publishing. He used the newspaper as his personal mouthpiece and used the proceeds to build a publishing, broadcasting, and telecommunications empire. As of 1996, he had over USD 600 million in assets. His business faced a meltdown following the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, forcing him into bankrupcy and sparking investigations into irregular inter-company transactions. Immediately following the crisis, Sondhi furiously attacked the Democrat-led government over its management of the economic recovery. After the election of Thaksin Shinawatra as Prime Minister in 2001, several of Sondhi's associates became leaders in the new government. His banker, Viroj Nualkhair, became president of state-owned Krung Thai Bank and gave over a billion baht in debt forgiveness to Sondhi, allowing him to emerge from bankrupcy. Sondhi became a vocal supporter of Thaksin, calling him "the best prime minister our country has ever had." [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r50.php Old views haunt govt critic] , 7 December 2005]

In 2005, Viroj Nualkhair was fired from KTB after incurring over 40 billion baht in problem loans. Sondhi's started criticizing Thaksin using various media under his control, including satellite broadcaster ASTV. He founded the People's Alliance for Democracy, aimed at overthrowing the Thaksin government. The PAD dissolved after a military coup against Thaksin, but after Thaksin-affiliated parties won a post-coup election, the PAD reformed and renewed protests. In 2008, he and the PAD forces seized and barracaded themselves inside Government House.

Early life and career (pre-1982)

Sondhi was born to Chinese immigrant parents from Hainan [ [http://216.109.125.130/search/cache?p=limthongkul+hainan&fr=yfp-t-501&toggle=1&ei=UTF-8&vc=&fp_ip=SG&u=thestar.com.my/services/printerfriendly.asp%3Ffile%3D/2006/4/9/focus/13914947.asp%26sec%3Dfocus&w=limthongkul+hainan&d=PKNIzfmdOl5L&icp=1&.intl=us The man who took on Thaksin] ] [ [http://www.shop.com/op/aprod-p29074025-k24-g1-~encyclopedia+of+chinese+overseas-nover The Encyclopedia of Chinese Overseas, by Lynn Pan ISBN-13: 978-0674252103] ] in Bangkok. He studied history at University of California, Los Angeles, where he became a reporter for the student newspaper, "The Daily Bruin", from 1966 to 1969.

Upon returning to Thailand, he worked for the newspaper Prachatipatai (Democracy) as reporter and managing editor from 1973 to 1974. He wrote several exposes of the political developments that led to the bloodshed on Oct. 14, 1973, an event that brought the government down.

In 1976, he set up the Advance Media Group with real estate investor Paul Sittiamnuay. The group produced four publications, including the short-lived English-language daily Business Times (not related to the current "Business Times"), where Sondhi was an editor. The newspaper collapsed after Paul Sittiamnuay was investigated in a real estate scandal, went bankrupt and fled the country.

In 1979, Sondhi set up his own company, Karawek, which published the women's magazine, "Pooying", from 1980 to 1982.

The Manager era (1982-1997)

In 1982, Sondhi established the business monthly Phoojatkarn (Manager), which he started producing in one of the rooms in his father's house. "Phoojatkarn Monthly" was soon a success, and four years later Sondhi began a weekly of the same name. He later published a daily newspaper, Phoojadkarn Rai Wan. Over the years, Phoojatkarn Daily has often been seen as Sondhi's personal mouthpiece.

Sondhi eventually established a publishing house called the Manager Group (also called M Group), as a holding company for his media outlets. Among the companies Sondhi purchased were the IT firms SCT and Micronetic, and the handset retailer IEC. IEC was the exclusive handset retailer for Nokia phones and its major customers were the two rival mobile-phone groups Advanced Info Service, which belonged to future Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and Total Access Communication (later known as DTAC).

During this period, Sondhi also expanded into English-language publishing, with an English edition of Manager, the Hong Kong-based monthly Asia Inc, and the regional daily newspaper Asia Times. He even briefly owned a local lifestyle magazine in Los Angeles known as Buzz. At the time, Sondhi was characterized in the media as an "Asian Rupert Murdoch," and he hired aggressively, bringing in both Asian and Western journalists. Asia Inc was eventually sold, and went through several ownership changes. It's currently owned by Singapore-based Edge Asia Inc Media Group. Asia Times folded in 1997, though an online edition, run by some of the paper's former staff, continues to operate Asia Times Online.

Before taking IEC public in 1992, Sondhi allotted a 17.5 per cent stake in the company to Thaksin. Thaksin bought the stake at Bt10 per share. After the listing, IEC's share price shot up to THB 250 apiece and Thaksin sold out his stake. Sondhi said Thaksin made between THB 600 million to THB 700 million from the IEC float. Sondhi wrote in his book "One Must Know How To Lose Before Knowing How To Win" that he got the feeling that Thaksin was a free rider and did not want to do business with him.

The Manager Group-led Asia Broadcasting and Communications Network (ABCN) set up its satellite project, Lao Star Co - which was worth about THB 9 billion - as a joint venture with the Lao government in 1995. Lao Star appointed Space System/Loral to build two L-Star satellites and L-Star 1 was set to officially launch to provide digital direct-to-home TV programmes in 1998. L-Star 2 was to be put into orbit in 1999. The project was planned to serve around 2 billion people in the Asia Pacific region, including India and China. Later ABCN enlisted DTAC's parent, United Communication Industry Plc (Ucom), to back its business.

IEC also provided a bulk of the mobile-phone airtime to DTAC before purchasing the 1800 MHz frequency from DTAC to develop its own mobile-phone operator Wireless Communication Service (WCS). WCS offered the service under the brand Digital 01.

Sondhi expanded and diversified widely. He owned a hotel in China’s Yunnan province, ran a cement factory in Vietnam, and set up a regional business conference company. Most of his investments were woven in a complex series of cross-shareholdings. Sondhi himself kept few direct holdings in any of the companies, but was ultimately in control through his ownership of holding companies like M Group and other holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Such a structure minimized Sondhi's tax bill and provided maximum protection in case of financial difficulties. [The Nation, [http://friskodude.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_friskodude_archive.html Speedy demise for Sondhi's empire] , 12 April 2002]

In 1996, Fortune magazine had put Sondhi's assets at USD 600 million (or THB 12 billion at the exchange-rate of THB 25 to a US dollar). He received an honorary doctorate from Chiang Mai University. He often travelled around Thailand in a chartered personal business jet from Thai Airways and was often seen escorting Chinese movie star Gong Li. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=6&id=58470 The Nation, "Speedy demise for Sondhi’s empire", 12 April 2002] ]

Bankruptcy and anti-Democrat period (1997-2001)

Following the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, Sondhi's satellite and publishing businesses faced a meltdown. His WCS was sold to the CP Group before it was renamed TA Orange and later became True Move. The Manager Group was saddled with THB 20 billion in debt but only THB 4 billion in equity. The Manager Group's holding company alone had liabilities of THB 6 billion. Manager Media had Bt4.7 billion in debt. Sondhi was personally in debt for THB 1.5 billion. Sondhi ended up declaring himself bankrupt for three years. This meant that his THB 1.5 billion debt could be claimed from whatever was in his personal account for a span three years, rather than having to repay the debt over 15 or 20 years as earlier scheduled.

Sondhi's companies were also investigated for irregular inter-company transactions. IEC guaranteed a THB 1.2 billion baht loan by M group in 1996, but never disclosed this guarantee to the public. M Group later defaulted on the loan, sending IEC into bankruptcy [ [http://bankrupt.com/TCRAP_Public/991101.MBX Troubled Company Reporter, "SET orders loan guarantee report", 1 November 1999] ]

Auditors of Eastern Printing, Sondhi's SET-listed printing company, noted that its huge losses partially stemmed from lendings to associated companies and the establishment of off-balance accounts to related publishing companies. For example, in its 2000 financial statement, Sondhi-linked companies Asia Inc and FRYE Smith (USA) Co owed Bt59.86 million and Bt125.79 million respectively to Eastern Printing. Likewise, according to its 2000 financial statements, Manager Media lent Bt1.061 billion to related publishers, under guarantee from Sondhi. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=6&id=58312 The Nation, "A fallen empire finds new lease on life", 10 April 2002] ]

The Manager Group furiously attacked the Democrat-led government over its management of the economic crisis during its time in office from late 1997 to 2000. This included scathing attacks on Finance Minister Tharin Nimmanhaeminda for his emergency financing agreements with the IMF and Deputy Prime Minister Sawit Bhodhivihok for his policy of privatizing the state-owned electricity sector.

The Thaksin Era (2001-2006)

Pro-Thaksin Period

After the election of Thaksin Shinawatra as Prime Minister in 2001, Manager Daily lauded Thaksin's leadership, calling him Thailand's best prime minister ever. Somkid Jatusripitak, co-founder of the Manager Media Group and writer of a column for Manager Daily became Thaksin's commerce and finance minister [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=6&id=58371] . Pansak Vinyaratan, previously editor of the now defunct Sondhi-owned Asia Times, became Thaksin's chief policy adviser. Chai-anan Samudvanija, who chaired IEC and was head of several of Sondhi's foundations, won prominent jobs at state-owned Krung Thai Bank and Thai Airways International. Kanok Abhiradee, the head of one of Sondhi's companies, became president of Thai Airways. Viroj Nualkhair, Sondhi's former banker, replaced Sirin Nimmanhaeminda as president of the state-owned Krung Thai Bank. [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=6&id=58371] ] Under Viroj's management, the debt that Manager Group owed to Krung Thai Bank was reduced from Bt1.8 billion to THB 200 million.

Emerging from bankruptcy, Sondhi started his own TV show, 'Thailand Weekly' airing on the MCOT's channel and co-hosted by Sarocha Pornudomsak. He also invested in two TV channels, 11/1 and 11/2 - a split from Television of Thailand Channel 11. A Democrat MP alleged that the Thaksin government gave favors to Sondhi and his companies [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=6&id=58371] .

In July 2003, Sondhi wrote in his newspaper predicting the US Dollar's failure in 2010 and at the same time suggested Thai people invest in gold.

Origins of the Anti-Thaksin Period

In 2004, state-owned Krung Thai Bank (KTB) shocked Thailand's financial world by reclassifying approximately Bt40 billion as problem loans. It was strongly rumored that M.R.W. Pridiyathorn Devakula, the Bank of Thailand governor, would fire KTB CEO Viroj Nualkhair if he did not voluntarily resign. Viroj Nualkhair was Sondhi's former financial advisor, having helped him IPO one of his first companies. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=6&id=58371 The Nation, "New party, old friends aid Sondhi", 11 April 2002] ] As Krung Thai Bank CEO, Viroj had forgiven Sondhi's debts by THB 1.6 billion and arranged for further rounds of forgiveness. Using all of his media outlets, Sondhi furiously attacked Pridiyathorn and defended Viroj Nualkhair. However, Viroj was eventually forced to leave Krung Thai Bank. Sondhi's public criticism of Thaksin started to increase. [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/nov30.php The good old days] , 30 November 2005]

In July 2004, Sondhi's Channel 11/1 was temporarily ordered to stop broadcasting due to a contract dispute between cable operator UBC and the government regulator. [ [http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=12552 Bangkok Post, UBC complies, drops channel, 2 July 2004] ] [ [http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=12621] Bangkok Post, "UBC to resume televising Channel 11/1", 8 July 2004] Sondhi's criticism of Thaksin increased steadily throughout 2004 and 2005, with weekly attacks on his Muangthai Rai Sapda (Thailand Weekly) television show getting much attention.

In September 2005, MCOT (broadcaster of Channel 9), in response to allegations that Muangthai Rai Sapda made inapporpriate references to the monarchy, cancelled the program. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r17.php The Nation, "Ch 9 drops Sondhi for royal references", 16 September 2005] ] Sondhi claimed that he was dropped for criticism of the Thaksin government. He subsequently started broadcasting the talkshow via satellite and webcasting it on the website of one of his newspapers, doubling his daily number of site visitors. [http://directory.truehits.net/trafficweb/index.php?url=www.manager.co.th]

The Luang Ta Maha Bua incident

On 27 September 2005, Phoochatkarn Daily published a sermon by Luang Ta Maha Bua, a popular but controversial monk [http://www.manager.co.th/Politics/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9480000132593] [http://sanpaworn.vissaventure.com/?id=198] . The sermon was seen by many as extremely critical of Thaksin, and further controversial because it came from a monk (who are above criticism in Buddhist Thailand). Especially controversial were the following quotes:

"They complained to me about PM Thaksin and Mr. Visanu and two other people that I don’t remember. This is the big ogre ( _th. ตัวยักษ์ใหญ่), big power. Atrocious power will swallow our country, bite liver and lungs and aim for the presidency....He will put a torch to the country. He will never listen....This savagery and atrocity appear in every aspect of him.... All he has are things to be used for burning."

"He is clearly aiming for the presidency now. The monarch trampled, the religion trampled, the country trampled, by this savage and atrocious power in a few people in the government circle. That is the circle of ogres, of ghosts, of trolls, of demons ( _th. ยักษ์วงผีวงเปรตวงมาร), all in there....So even Devadatta [enemy of the Buddha] saw the harm he caused, and he was rewarded for his good deed. He would attain Buddhahood ( _th. พระปัจเจกพุทธเจ้า). For those who have made mistakes, if we see the harm we cause, we can still get by. But what is it with Thailand? What kind of governance?"

"They even dare to accuse Luangta Maha Bua of playing politics. Politics, dog shit ( _th. การบ้านการเมืองขี้หมาอะไร). There’s only shit all over the country. I brought Buddha’s dharma to cleanse in order for them to repent and recognize good and evil. Because they’re the government. The world flatters them as smart people, but don’t be smart down the toilet ( _th. แต่อย่าฉลาดลงส้วมลงถาน). Don’t be smart about putting a torch to the head of everyone in the country, from Nation, Religion, and Monarchy on down. These guys will get burned unless they recognize the truth. I’m saddened by all this. How does this come about?"

Thailand has no office of presidency. The King is the head of state and the prime minister, the head of government. A president would replace the King - an unthinkable affront to the Thais’ reverence for the monarchy. Accusations of aspiration to presidency is one of the most severe and rare criticisms a Thai politician can receive.

On 11 October 2005, Thaksin sued Sondhi and Manager newspaper for THB 500 million [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r24.php] . As monks have traditionally been above criticism, Thaksin did not sue Luang Ta Maha Bua. "This is an exercise of an individual's right to protect his reputation and privacy. The newspaper did not criticise the prime minister fairly as a public official, but rather it took him to task personally, using harsh words, which was damaging to him," Thana Benjathikul, Thaksin's lawyer said.

Thaksin was immediately attacked by Sondhi and accused of gagging the press. Sondhi's lawyer, Suwat Apaipakdi, claimed that "every newspaper reproduced his [Luang Ta Maha Bua] comments. Why did Thaksin not sue him [Luang Ta Maha Bua] ? He chose to sue only the Manager Media Group because it's linked to Khun Sondhi". Thaksin's legal team noted that other newspapers only published selected passages of the sermon, and furthermore, that Sondhi had used a slanderous headline. Respected civil rights lawyer Thongbai Thongpao has noted that Thaksin's lawsuit did have merit. He added that the lawsuits "do not constitute an attack on freedom of the press" [http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/GK02Ae01.html] .

The case, along with several other libel cases, was withdrawn after King Bhumibol Adulyadej indirectly advised against such legal action during his annual birthday speech.

Luang Ta Maha Bua has made several appearances at Sondhi's anti-Thaksin talkshows, and has continued to give sermons attacking the Prime Minister.

The Royal Power / Temple of the Emerald Buddha incident

On 10 April 2005, Thaksin Shinawatra presided over a merit-making ceremony at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the holiest site in Thai Buddhism. Starting October 2005, the website of Phoochatkarn newspaper [http://www.manager.co.th] ran an article alleging that the Prime Minister had usurped the Royal powers of the King by presiding over the ceremony. This led Sondhi Limthongkul to start using "We Love the King", "We Will Fight for the King", and "Return Power to the King" as his key anti-Thaksin rallying slogans. This allegation has been repeated in Thaksin's "Thailand Weekly" live tapings. It also became a staple of the thaiinsider.com website of Ekkayuth Anchanbutr, operator of the Charter pyramid scheme. A widely circulated anonymous spam email showed a picture of Thaksin sitting on a chair normally used by the King and asking "People are familiar with images only of the King and members of the Royal Family, all dressed in royal uniforms and decorated with full regalia, presiding over grand ceremonies in the temple’s main chapel. Yet this picture makes me think: What has happened to our country?".

On 9 November 2005, Cabinet secretary-general Bovornsak Uwanno claimed that King Bhumibol Adulyadej granted permission to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to preside over a grand merit-making ceremony [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/10/national/index.php?news=national_19114638.html] . This was corroborated by Chaktham Thammasak, who was director-general of the Bureau of National Buddhism during the time of the incident. Chaktham claims that the Royal Household Bureau designed every aspect of the ceremony, including the positioning of the chairs [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/11/headlines/index.php?news=headlines_19127252.html] .

On 17 November 2005, the Civil Court issued a gag order on Sondhi to prevent him from making further "royal powers" allegations [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/17/headlines/index.php?news=headlines_19189415.html] . This immediately prompted Sondhi to attack Thaksin and accuse him of restricting press freedom.

Sondhi was investigated on two counts of lese-majesty [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r26.php] against King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Counter-charges of lese-majesty were filed against Prime Minister Thaksin.

On 18 November 2005, Supreme Commander General Ruengroj Mahasaranond harshly warned Sondhi against using the King as a political tool. “Our patience is reaching the breaking point. We may take action if Sondhi does not cease his criticism by citing the monarchy” [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/18/headlines/index.php?news=headlines_19197899.html] .

All charges have been dropped after King Bhumibol Adulyadej advised against further action in his birthday speech. However, to this day, Sondhi still uses "We Will Fight for the King" and "Return Power to the King" as rallying cries in his anti-Thaksin protests.

Ongoing political activism

: main|Thailand political crisis 2005-2006

Sondhi hosted an own outdoor talkshow throughout late 2005 and early 2006 at Thammasat University and in Lumphini Park with his slogan, "We Fight for the King". His broadcasts/protests, which later became the core of the People's Alliance for Democracy attracted many protestors, with the largest one on February 4, 2006 at the Royal Plaza drawing between 40,000 - 50,000 (foreign media estimates) and 100,000 (local media estimates) protestors. [ [http://english.epochtimes.com/news/6-2-4/37778.html The Epoch Times | Huge Rally Calls for Thai PM's Resignation ] ] [ [http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/196346/1/.html Channelnewsasia.com ] ] The talkshow protests were broadcasted online via the [http://www.manager.co.th ManagerOnline] Web site, generating an almost twofold increase in site visitors, from an average of 80,000 to 150,000 visitors per dayFact|date=February 2007.

Protests led by Sondhi took on an increasingly critical tone. In a single protest in late February 2006, Buddhist leader Sulak Sivaraksa called Thaksin a pitiful dog, chairman of a northeastern teachers' group Auychai Watha called for Thaksin's children to "become whores infected with venereal disease." The behavior of the protesters was condemned by the Chairperson of Amnesty International's Thailand office. Protestors often harassed journalists and newscrews. [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/01/opinion/opinion_20001744.php Non-violence is not simply the absence of physical violence] , 1 March 2006]

Sondhi was harshly criticized for using the King for his own benefit. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r22.php The Nation, "Policeman sues media tycoon for lese majeste", 9 November 2005] ] [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r5.php The Nation, "Sondhi gets 'warning' letter from guardsmen", 17 November 2005] ]

Sondhi's income skyrocketed as a result of his political activism. Revenues of his media companies increased by no less than 215 million baht (approx $6 million US) a month from the start of his protests to early 2006. [โพสทูเดย์, "แฉอานิสงส์ม็อบกู้ชาติ "สนธิ" ฟาดเดือนละ 215 ล้าน", 23 March 2006]

The Phra Phrom Erawan Shrine incident

In the early hours of 21 March 2006, Thanakorn Pakdeepol, 27, broke into the Phra Phrom Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok and attacked the god Brahma with a hammer. After destroying the god, he was attacked and beaten to death by several people in the vicinity. Thanakorn Pakdeepol had a history of mental illness and depression. Thai police are still investigating the case. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/22/headlines/headlines_20003314.php Man beaten to death after desecrating the Erawan Shrine ] ]

On his talkshow on 22 March, Sondhi claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra masterminded the destruction of the god along in order to replace Brahma with a "dark force" aligned to Thaksin. [ [http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/4/2/focus/13836842&sec=focus Dreaded day dawns – despite lies and dark forces ] ] Sondhi claimed that Thaksin hired Thanakorn through Khmer (Cambodian) black-magic shamans. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/23/politics/politics_20003410.php Vandal's dad distraught ] ]

The vandal's father, Sayant Pakdeepol called Sondhi "the biggest liar I have ever seen". Thaksin called Sondhi's accusations "insane". Fact|date=February 2007

The Finland Plot

Starting May 2006, Sondhi's Manager Daily newspaper published a series of articles on the "Finland Plot", a theory that Thaksin Shinawatra and former student leaders from the 1970s met in Finland in 1999 to create a plan to overthrow the Thai monarchy and establish a republic based on the western democracies. No evidence was ever been produced to verify the existence of such a plan, and Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party denied the accusations. Thaksin later sued Sondhi and several Manager Daily executives for defamation. Sondhi counterargued that Thaksin was trying to silence the press. [The Nation, "Thaksin clearly wanted republic, critics charge", 25 May 2006] [The Bangkok Post, [http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article-southeastasia.asp?parentid=46976 "Manager sued for articles on 'Finland plot'"] , 31 May 2006]

Post-2006 Coup

Sondhi and other leaders of People's Alliance for Democracy scheduled a massive demonstration against Thaksin on 20 September 2006. In the days preceding the demonstration, rumors spread that the protest would turn bloody. However, on 19 September 2006, a group of Thai military, led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, overthrew the Thaksin government, dissolved the Parliament, and abrogated the constitution. Thaksin, abroad at the time, was exiled indefinitely, and several members of his Cabinet were summonned for investigation. Sondhi's protest was cancelled, and the PAD later dissolved itself, claiming that it was no longer needed given the ouster of the Thaksin government.

Sondhi supported the coup, and later went on an international tour through London, Washington DC, and New York to celebrate with the PAD's expatriate supporters. [ [http://titan.soas.ac.uk:8080/ramgen/Archive/061007-thaicoup.rm?start=00:18:15&end=02:53:58] Speech by Sondi and Kraisak Chunhawan given at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (in Real Media format)] . During this trip, he also raised funds for the IPO of his satellite business, and explained that he had spent almost 420 million baht of his own money on the PAD campaign. He later announced that his political focus would be on educating Thai people on how badly the Thaksin-government had run the country. To prove this, Sondhi established the "Thailand Watch Foundation" (Yam Fau Paendin Foundation), a non-profit organization that provides financial support to part of his post-Thaksin campaign. He publicly announced that he would terminate all of his public roles within five years.

Sondhi took a critical stance against the junta when it appointed a few cabinet members who had previously served as civil servants under the Thaksin-government.

He later apologized in court to Chaisit Shinawatra, cousin of Thaksin, for claiming that the Shinawatra and Damapong families had "plundered" the nation. Or more explicitly, All of them were 'lower than ***'. Chaisit agreed to drop litigation against Sondhi in return for the apology. Although the court has stated that by accusing a whole family, Sondhi cannot be charged. which was another example of Thailand's failing legal system. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/01/15/headlines/headlines_30024181.php Media tycoon Sonthi apologises to Chaisit] , 15 January 2007]

Sondhi was rewarded by the Council for National Security (the military junta that overthrew the elected government) for his role in the anti-Thaksin campaign by being invited to air a political commentary show on government-run Channel 11. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/option/print.php?newsid=30027425 Govt must tolerate dissent] , 21 February 2007]

Public protests against the junta intensified in the months after the coup. Sondhi and the People's Alliance for Democracy rallied in support of the junta and called for the military to use state-owned news media to "alert" people to the "evil" of the anti-junta protestors. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/07/23/politics/politics_30041903.php Counter rally helds against anti-coup group] , 23 July 2007]

2008 political crisis

Sundaravej said "I will never resign in response to these threats.I will not dissolve the House. I will meet the king today to report what's going on." He met with King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Hua Hin palace. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7589504.stm news.bbc.co.uk, Thai PM Samak refuses to resign] ] For the 5th day, 30,000 protesters, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, occupied Sundaravej's Government House compound in central Bangkok, forcing him and his advisers to work out of a military command post. Thai riot police entered the occupied compound and delivered a court order for the eviction of protesters. [ [http://www.gulfnews.com/world/Thailand/10241274.html gulfnews.com/world, Thai minister to stay despite protests] ] Chamlong Srimuang ordered 45 PAD guards to break into the main government building on Saturday. [ [http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gvt2G9EPA9UPyXWKie_ZyeeIcsig afp.google.com, Thai protesters break into government office as PM heads to consult king] ] 3 regional airports remain closed and 35 trains between Bangkok and the provinces were canceled. Protesters raided the Phuket International Airport tarmac on the resort island of Phuket Province resulting to 118 flights canceled or diverted, affecting 15,000 passengers. [ [http://www.eleconomista.es/mundo/noticias/726786/08/08/I-will-never-resign-says-besieged-Thai-PM.html eleconomista.es, "I will never resign" says besieged Thai PM] ]

Protesters also blocked the entrance of the airports in Krabi and Hat Yai (which was later re-opened). Police issued arrest warrants for Sondhi Limthongkul and 8 other protest leaders on charges of insurrection, conspiracy, unlawful assembly and refusing orders to disperse. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/30/world/asia/30thai.html?ref=asia nytimes.com, Thai Protest of Premier Stops Trains and Planes] ] Meanwhile, Gen. Anupong Paochinda stated: "The army will not stage a coup. The political crisis should be resolved by political means." Samak and the Thai Party ruling coalition called urgent parliamentary debate and session for August 31. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7588114.stm news.bbc.co.uk, Pressure mounts on Thailand's PM] ] [ [http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aGbXEEO82GFM&refer=asia bloomberg.com, Thai Party Calls Urgent Session as Protests Spread] ]

Allegations against the Sarasin family

On 27 April 2007, Sondhi claimed on his "Yam Fao Phaendin" (Guard of the Land) TV program that an amendment to the anti-corruption law passed by the National Legislative Assembly had been "stuck" for a month after being submitted for royal endorsement, and suggested the "delay" could be due to family ties between Arsa Sarasin (King Bhumibol's Principal Private Secretary) and Pong Sarasin (his little brother, a major shareholder in a company that Sondhi accused of acting as a nominee in the sale of Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings).

The Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary said in a public statement that Arsa had "has no connections whatsoever" with the issue, and that Sondhi made "incorrect allegations" against the royal secretary. "Sondhi's statement indicated that he failed to double-check the facts and had intended to frame and cause damage to Arsa Sarasin and the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary," said a letter sent to Sondhi. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/05/04/national/national_30033366.php HM's office rebuts Arsa allegations] , 4 March 2007]

Sondhi issued an apology a few days later, but also publicly warned Arsa that he had no right to use the office of the King's Principal Private Secretary to defend himself in a personal matter. He then accused the King's Principal Private Secretary of speaking with the Attorney General and the Police Commander in order to get charges of lese majeste against Thaksin Shinawatra dropped. [ผู้จัดการออนไลน์, [http://www.manager.co.th/Politics/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9500000051464 “สนธิ” เตือน “อาสา” อย่าใช้สำนักราชเลขาฯ โยงเรื่องส่วนตัว] , 4 พฤษภาคม 2550]

Notes

ee also

*Muangthai Raisabdah
*Media in Thailand
*. "", February 12, 2006
*. "", January 14, 2006
*. "", November 17, 2005
*. "", September 15, 2005

External links

* [http://www.pathfinder.com/asiaweek/95/1208/feat4.html Asiaweek.com, "Sondhi's Times"]
* [http://www.manager.co.th ManagerOnline Web site]
* [http://www.manager.co.th/Politics/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=2000000024973 Thai news about predicting dolloars failure] from the ManagerOnline Web
* [http://directory.truehits.net/trafficweb/index.php?url=www.manager.co.th ManagerOnline Web statistics] from Truehits.net
* [http://www.asia-inc.com Asia Inc]
* [http://www.atimes.com Asia Times Online]
* [http://www.managerradio.com/Radio/DetailRadio.asp?program_no=1026&mmsID=1026%2F1026%2D1167%2Ewma+&program_id=2778 Sondhi Limthongkul on CNN | audio clip]
* [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/nov30.php The Good Old Days]
* [http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/2006/09/21/new-mandala-in-the-press/ Pro-democracy movement support for the coup]
* [http://titan.soas.ac.uk:8080/ramgen/Archive/061007-thaicoup.rm?start=00:18:15&end=02:53:58 Speech by Sondi and Kraisak Chunhawan] Given at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (in Real Media format)


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