Friday, September 22, 2006

Straits Times subtle, yet glaring, front page cover-up; Sept 16 photos of parliament house

There's a front page story in today's Straits Times titled Thaksin gives up fight as military tightens grip. Towards the end of the report, there's a paragraph that says "A probe into whether deposed Mr Thaksin's family legitimately paid no tax on the US$1.9 billion (S$3 billion) sale of the firm he founded should be finalised this month, the (Thailand) auditor-general said yesterday."

Apart from those who are interested in such matters, I doubt many Singaporeans will notice a cover-up by the Straits Times. Even though they quote Thailand's auditor-general, the Straits Times conveniently leaves out the fact that it was Temasek Holdings which bought a 49% stake in Thaksin's Shin Corp for US$1.9 billion. Temasek Holdings' name does not appear anywhere in the report. And they call this journalism. I call it prostitution.

Here's a report from the Financial Times and what the prostitutes at the state-controlled Straits Times don't want to report.............

Singapore may see worst fallout from Thai coup
by John Burton in Singapore
Financial Times, 20 Sept 2006

Singapore could suffer the most among countries in the region from the military coup against Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, who forged close ties with the city-state and sold his telecommunications group to Singapore's state investment company.

It was the $1.9bn sale of a 49 per cent in Shin Corp by Mr Thaksin's family to Temasek Holdings in January that triggered the political crisis that led to the coup after it was revealed the family paid no taxes on profits from the deal.

Mr Thaksin was seen by Singapore as its strongest supporter for closer economic integration of the Association of South-east Nations, which provoked talk of a Singapore-Bangkok axis within the group.

The ousted Thai leader also expressed admiration for Singapore's political system, telling Singapore officials that he wanted to model his Thai Rak Thai party on the long-ruling People's Action party.

Mr Thaksin decided to sell Shin Corp to Temasek to dispel allegations of conflicts of interest between his family's corporate holdings and his government duties as he prepared to stand for a third term as prime minister.

The deal turned out to be the most controversial conducted by Temasek since Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore's prime minister, became the group's chief executive in 2002 and launched an ambitious global acquisition strategy.

Public protests in Thailand over the deal have led to a nearly 40 per cent fall in Shin Corp's share price since then. In April, Lee Hsien Loong, Ms Ho's husband, told parliament that "Temasek invested in Shin Corp because it saw value in the investment" but added it was not government policy "to second guess Temasek's risk assessments".

A former senior Singapore official, however, criticised Temasek's handling of the deal in light of Mr Thaksin's growing unpopularity at the time. "Temasek did financial due diligence, but not political due diligence," he told the Financial Times. Temasek said it had considered all aspects in concluding the deal.

A Temasek-led consortium increased its stake to 96 per cent in Shin Corp under a mandatory offer, but the takeover has been investigated by Thai regulators over whether Temasek used proxy companies to avoid a 49 per cent ceiling on foreign ownership in strategic industries. Temasek said it fully complied with Thai law.

Michael Montesano, a Thai specialist at the National University of Singapore, believed it was unlikely a new government would nullify the Shin Corp deal, but Temasek might have to reduce its stake if it was found in breach of foreign shareholding limits. Temasek said it was premature to comment on the coup's impact.

Most regional governments expressed concerns about the coup and called for a restoration of democracy in Thailand.

Indonesia's defence minister, Juwono Sudarsono, said the Thai coup illustrated one of the pressures facing south-east Asia's civilian democratic governments. "If there's a lesson it is this: politicians and parliamentarians must get their act together and consolidate party building and deliver on performance," he said. "Otherwise people turn to the military for decisiveness and stability."

In the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the president who declared a brief state of emergency to crush an alleged coup attempt early this year, was keen to quell speculation the Thai coup might encourage the military to attempt a similar takeover.

Additional reporting by Shawn Donnan in Jakarta and Roel Landingin in Manila
And here are a few more of my own photos from Sept 16. John Burton of the Financial Times is in two of the photos as he was covering the peaceful protest......

Police gather in front of Parliament House...........

The paranoid state of affairs gives one the impression that the police are expecting an imminent attack on Parliament House.........

....do these guys look like suicide bombers or any criminal elements to you!! Out of the 6 protesters, 4 of them made their way to Parliament House. The photo shows 3 of them while the 4th individual can be seen in the 5th photo. The police told them not to gather & stand around there but to disperse.

John Burton (left) speaking to Gandhi Ambalam, one of the protesters .

John Burton speaking to the policeman-in-charge at the spot while the protesters observe.

At the same time, Chee Soon Juan was stopped and detained here by the police from walking to Parliament House by himself.....

....a close-up shows Chee Soon Juan (right, face blocked by plainclothes police officer) speaking to another plainclothes officer (left, facing Chee) of a higher rank.

In the blazing hot sun, a supporter holds an umbrella over Chee Siok Chin somewhere along South Bridge Road. She's surrounded by a cordon of policewomen and even more police. She was also trying to walk to Parliament House by herself when she was stopped & detained here by the police.

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