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Thai regulator faults PM's son on Shin deals

By Staff
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BANGKOK, Feb 23 (Reuters) Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's son broke stock disclosure laws before the 1.9 billion dollars sale last month of the telecommunications empire his father founded, Thai regulators today.

Phantongtae Shinawatra, 27, also violated tender offer rules in the run-up to the sale of 49.6 per cent of Shin Corp to Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

''The violations are not serious enough to press criminal charges,'' SEC Secretary General Thirachai Phuavanatnaranubala told reporters after a month-long probe into the deal, but Phantongtae is likely to face a fine.

The SEC report was unlikely to stem the tide of anger among the middle class in Bangkok, where two major protests have been fuelled by the tax-free sale of Shin Corp to foreigners.

It did not appease Thaksin's critics who have demanded his resignation over the sale of assets, such as satellites, they say are potentially vital to national security.

''This is a whitewash,'' Chulalongkorn University political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak said of the SEC rulings.

''These rulings will not extinguish those flames,'' he said, referring to the mass protests in Bangkok, with another planned for Sunday.

The SEC said Phantongtae had failed to report Shin Corp shares he held in Ample Rich Investments, an offshore company his father set up in the British Virgin Islands, a Caribbean tax haven.

The SEC said Phantongtae had held 36.2 percent of Shin Corp since 2000, but did not make a tender offer for the whole company as required under Thai law and ''had no intention of taking over the company''.

Thaksin won a second successive landslide election victory last year, but has seen his popularity slide in Bangkok due to corruption scandals and what critics call his autocratic tendencies.

Thaksin has refused to quit and relied on support in the countryside, believed still to be solid, to fend off voter discontent in Bangkok.

REUTERS CS DS1132

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