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DSI backs down on threat to reveal 'backers'

The Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) has stepped back from its threat to reveal the identity of people funding the anti-government protest - amid fears that the move may backfire.

After saying on Monday that the authorities would release a list of names of businesspeople and groups providing financial support to the anti-government protests Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengdith yesterday said only that the DSI had to act with caution.

Tarit had warned that some people may be charged with criminal acts, and that their assets and finances might be frozen.

But after a meeting on the matter yesterday, Tarit told reporters the authorities needed more evidence to prove their case and may face legal consequences after releasing the list of names.

"We have to be fair to all concerned parties," he said. Examination of evidence on money transactions might take time, as there were several government agencies involved, he said. These were the Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the DSI, police and the Revenue Department, he said.

The CMPO, however, summoned executives of some five-star hotels such as the Dusit Thani and InterContinental where leaders of the protests allegedly stayed during rallies over recent weeks to give information on their roles in supporting the protest.

Pramon Sutivong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), said officials must be careful before making decisions to publicise the list of protest supporters. Companies had the right to take legal action against the CMPO for damage to their reputation, he said.

"The authorities must make sure that they enforce the emergency decree properly," he said.

Sarasin Veeraphol, executive vice president of Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), said the CMPO just threatened but might not really release the list of protest financiers. The announcement could cause a negative impact for the government, he said.

"If there are as many companies as the authorities claimed, it could mean that more than half of the total companies in the country are against this government," he said.

The threat to freeze assets of private companies or block their money transaction might not be good for the government, he said.

The country badly needed an atmosphere of reconciliation, so the government should not create any further rifts, he said.

Pornsin Patcharintanakul, vice president of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the plan to release the list of protest supporters may be a preventive measure to try to stop private companies from providing funds to the protesters.

The CMPO should clarify any charges and what the grounds were for releasing such a list. He said if some companies were really giving funds to help feed the protesters, they should get a warning before assets are "frozen". If the authorities have evidence to prove such allegations, they should ask a court to decide on whether assets can be frozen.

"The country is deeply divided and peo ple are polarised. Businesses that were accused of taking sides would be seriously affected," he said.

Boonchai Chokewattana, president of Saha Pathanapibul (Sahapat), said the authorities and officials who released the list of companies accused of helping the protest may face legal consequences if the information they release is not true. False information on this matter would damage people's business, he said.


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