Anti-government leader Suthep Thaugsuban called on Friday (February 21) for all subscribers to switch to any other phone service, regardless of quality, arguing that doing so would deprive the Shinawatra family of income.
Mr Suthep said, in part, “I ask my brothers and sisters to help, especially those using AIS: Regardless of its quality, return the SIM cards and use other brands.”
Horrified, AIS sent the following SMS messages to its subscribers to deny any connection with the Shinawatra family or Thai politics.
“AIS would like to affirm that the company does not involve in any political affair or issues,” the SMS said.
“Dr Thaskin Shinawatra & Family have sold out all the shares in the company group since Jan 23, 2006, and have not been involved with the company since then in any regards.
“Thanks you for your understanding and continuous support.”
In 2006, Mr Thaksin and his family sold their 49.6 per cent of AIS to nominees of the Singapore government investment arm Temasek, in a complex B73-billion deal that caused a furore in Thailand when it was learned that no tax was payable on the sale.
But locally, Amnuay Kumban said today (February 24) that he and the supporters of the protests in Bangkok whom he leads, had stopped using AIS’s services.
Despite the official record showing that the Shinawatra family no longer holds shares in AIS, Mr Amnuay insisted, “AIS is a Shinawatra family business. We do not believe them any more. These companies may be held by nominees on their behalf. We cannot trust them.”
Phumipat Tortheeka, AIS Public Relations Officer, told The Phuket News he could not confirm exactly how many people had cancelled their AIS service because this was confidential company information.
However, today the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) reported that some 1,400 people had switched from AIS to DTAC or True in the past two days. Given that AIS has some 40 million subscribers, this does not look like much of a problem for the company – so far.
People changing service providers can keep their number, but if the numbers climb steeply there may be a gap in service because the changeover system can handle only 60,000 changes a day.
Meanwhile, Mr Amnuay said, “We are now focusing on educating people to understand the effect of the Shinawatra network of companies on the man in the street.
The protesters have eased off on blockading government offices in Phuket. At the moment, Mr Amnuay said, only Provincial Hall and the Government Revenue Department are under siege and closed.
He and others have been concentrating on raising funds for the campaign in Bangkok. “Last week we went to Bangkok to give Suthep Thaugsuban B502,220.75 in donations we received.”