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BANGKOK—A group of die-hard anti-Thaksin activists is stepping up its campaign for authorities to charge Thailand's new leader with perjury in a sign that tensions could resurface in one of Southeast Asia's most volatile nations despite last weekend's decisive election.|
The critics said Tuesday that they will launch new protests to press the country's anticorruption watchdog to investigate Yingluck Shinawatra, the presumptive next prime minister, for allegedly concealing assets of her fugitive brother, ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
While the political temperature in Thailand has eased considerably since the vote, which Ms. Yingluck's party won in a landslide, the proposed protests is a reminder of the hazards that may lie ahead for her once she takes power, analysts said.
If any protests gained momentum in the months to come, they could complicate Thailand's delicate political balancing act just as it is showing signs of stabilizing after several years of turmoil.
Anti-Thaksin protests paved the way for a military coup that toppled Mr. Thaksin in 2006, and a blockade in 2008 shut down Bangkok's international airports.
Led by Tul Sitthisomwong, a medical lecturer, the activists say that Ms. Yingluck perjured herself when she told Thailand's Supreme Court last year that she had bought 20 million baht, or around $660,000, of shares several years earlier in the telecommunications company that Mr. Thaksin founded, Shin Corp.
The Supreme Court later ruled that Mr. Thaksin had attempted to conceal ownership of his shares in Shin Corp.—later sold to Singapore's Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd.—by claiming to distribute them among his family in order to circumvent rules prohibiting politicians from owning stock.
It also confiscated $1.46 billion of Mr. Thaksin's assets, infuriating the businessman, who later described the ruling as a way to curb his political reach after the army forced him from office.
Ms. Yingluck and her aides in the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai, or For Thais, Party, couldn't immediately be reached to comment, but she has previously denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Thaksin has always maintained his innocence.
A prominent Puea Thai candidate, Nattawut Saikua, said Dr. Tul should reconsider his protest plans because the people of Thailand have already voted. "It's time to move on," Mr. Nattawut said.
Officials at Thailand's Department of Special Investigations are probing the allegations to decide whether to pursue a case.
Dr. Tul said in a telephone interview that his group, the Network of Citizen Volunteers Protecting the Land, will begin protesting at the headquarters of Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission on July 12.
He said the campaign also aims to prevent Thailand's populist politicians from using their electoral mandates to put themselves above the law—such as by passing an amnesty law that might enable Mr. Thaksin to return to Thailand a free man and evade imprisonment on a 2008 corruption conviction.
"Even though Puea Thai won a landslide majority in Parliament and probably feels quite powerful at the moment, we'd like to remind them that they can't do everything they want," said Dr. Tul, 45 years old.
However, the activists, known informally as the "multishirts" because anybody can join their rallies—not just anti-Thaksin protesters who have been known in the past for their yellow attire—might not attract the kind of crowds that have shut down large parts of Bangkok in the past, according to analysts.
"With a landslide victory in the election, it will be difficult for smaller players like Dr. Tul to generate a lot of support," said Pavin Chachavalpongpun at the Institutes of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
Still, many in Bangkok's middle classes are alarmed at the prospect of another pro-Thaksin government taking over power, especially as some similar efforts in the past have snowballed into bigger affairs. Social-networking sites such as Facebook have been deluged with anti-Thaksin messages.
Some people are concerned that Ms. Yingluck's populisteconomic policies, which include increasing Thailand's minimum wages and guaranteeing higher prices for farmers, could speed up inflation.
Others are worried about Puea Thai's campaign pledge to bring Mr. Thaksin back from his self-imposed exile in Dubai, though in recent days the party has indicated it may be willing to hold off on trying for now.
The telecommunications billionaire is a deeply divisive figure.
He is adored in many parts of rural Thailand for his cheap health-care and easy-credit policies but reviled among some of Thailand's traditional ruling elites for the way he easily dominated the country's fragile democracy and for his alleged corruption.
Thailand's courts already have shown a willingness to take a stand against Mr. Thaksin's supporters. The Constitutional Court removed two pro-Thaksin prime ministers in 2008, one for accepting payments to appear on a television cooking shows, and another for buying votes. When the army toppled him, top generals also justified their actions by accusing him of undermining the authority of revered monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
With Mr. Thaksin's influence again looming over the country, analysts say there is potential for a fresh round of protests to emerge eventually—even if they aren't triggered by Dr. Tul's group.
Mr. Thaksin's critics are still well organized. During the recent elections, some Thaksin opponents launched their own campaign urging people to vote "No" on their ballots and find some other solution to Thailand's problems. A poster campaign portrayed animals such as monkeys, lizards and buffalos dressed up as politicians—a move that angered local animal-rights groups, who said the posters unfairly compared the creatures with Thailand's political leaders.
"The ingredients for another 'shirts' protest are all there," said Paul Chambers, a professor at Payap University in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.