|Friday February 24, 12:48 AM|
Thai PM's son violated disclosure laws: SEC
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's son violated disclosure laws in his family's sale of Shin Corp stock and will likely be fined, Thailand's top financial regulator ruled.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) found Panthongtae Shinawatra, 27, guilty of three counts of failing to disclose information to regulators about his share transactions between 2000 and 2002 prior to the Shin Corp sale this year.
He faces a maximum of two years in jail and a 500,000-baht (12,800 US dollar) fine, but SEC officials said Thursday the violations were not serious, and the body will set a fine within two weeks.
The verdict marks a fresh blow to the premier amid a public outcry over the 1.9 billion dollar tax-free sale of stock in Shin Corp -- the telecoms giant he founded before entering politics -- to Singapore's state-owned investment firm Temasek in January.
Chayam Chaiyaporn, an associate professor of political science at Thailand's top Chulalongkorn University, said the SEC's finding would further pressure Thaksin ahead of Sunday's mass rally against the premier.
"Absolutely, it will strengthen anti-Thaksin movements at the protest," Chayam said.
But Thaksin has managed to evade every legal challenge made by his opponents amid an ongoing campaign to oust him for an array of complaints, from the Shin Corp deal to his handling of the Islamic insurgency in southern Thailand.
The premier beat perhaps his biggest legal threat last week when Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled not investigate financial wrongdoing accusations made against him by 28 senators.
Thaksin has maintained the Shin Corp sale was done legally, and the court -- one of Thailand's highest legal bodies -- said the senators' petition did not back up their allegations of mismanagement against Thaksin.
Following the court's decision, focus shifted to Panthongtae and the premier's daughter Pinthongta Shinawatra.
Both were cleared of insider trading charges tied to the Shin Corp deal, and SEC officials said Thursday Pinthongta was not guilty of any disclosure violations.
"The investigation concluded that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his daughter Pinthongta are clear from all wrongdoing," said SEC secretary general Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala.
The senators who launched the legal attack against Thaksin said last week they would abandon any court bid to force the premier to quit, but pressure continues to mount from opponents elsewhere.
Some 50,000 people joined a February 4-5 rally in Bangkok in the biggest anti-government protest since Thaksin took office in 2001. A week later, 20,000 people gathered in the capital to demand Thaksin's resignation.
Tensions continue to rise ahead of the Sunday protest following a small bomb blast Wednesday outside the offices of a Thaksin opponent, with authorities warning more violence was possible.
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