THAILAND: Anti-Thaksin leader rallies Thai Americans
Photo by Angilee Shah

THAILAND: Anti-Thaksin leader rallies Thai Americans

Media mogul and People's Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul's Los Angeles rally was the last stop in a U.S. speaking tour to raise funds for his satellite network

By Tita Tantipinichwong
AsiaMedia Staff Writer

Wendesday, November 22, 2006

Los Angeles --- After three hours of opening acts, a 2,200-strong audience cheered when Sondhi Limthongkul came to the stage, his right fist raised up high. Like a rock star, the media mogul, People's Alliance for Democracy leader, and most notably, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's staunchest and most outspoken opponent, began his show.

Last Sunday, Sondhi spoke to a largely Thai American audience in a conference room at Hollywood Park in Inglewood. His was the main event after a series of speakers -- including Manager Group radio show host Anchalee Paireeruk, Sondhi's Thailand Weekly talk show co-host Sarocha Pornudomsak, former senator Karoon Saingam, and writer and journalist Kamnoon Sithisamarn -- spoke to the crowd about the ills of Thailand's ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

His appearance in Los Angeles was the last stop of a week long speaking tour of the Western United States in which he is both rallying Thai Americans and encouraging them to invest in the satellite television arm of his media conglomerate Manager Group. His earlier stops were in Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

"Our society is dark," Sondhi told the Los Angeles crowd in Thai. "Last year we had a ghost," he said. "In the past, I've fought in order to have Thaksin leave. But from now on, I'm going to fight so that Thailand will not encounter another regime like Thaksin's."

Sondhi announced his plan to build an Asia Satellite TV (ASTV) studio in Los Angeles. Last year, Thailand Weekly, Sondhi's political talk known for being critical of the Thaksin administration, was dropped by MCOT's Channel 9, but ASTV continued to broadcast the program via satellite. A back-and-forth legal battle ensued over ASTV's right to broadcast the controversial show, but Sondhi picked up viewers by broadcasting Thailand Weekly on the Manager Daily website. Through ASTV, Sondhi said, he could independently broadcast his show via satellite and the Internet, without violating the law.

Without a platform or mouthpiece, Sondhi said he would fail in his efforts against Thaksin. At 59 years old, Sondhi predicted that in five years he would no longer be a political activist, but that ASTV's withdrawal would be unacceptable. Earlier in the speech, he had facetiously asked the audience why they came to the rally, even though it cost them $5 to buy blue handkerchiefs in support of the monarchy and cost them even more to buy ASTV stocks.

In his two-hour speech, Sondhi also addressd the role of religion and the monarchy in Thailand, the war on drugs, and the many definitions of a democracy. Sondhi described himself as an ordinary man, without power but brave enough to fight.