Thailand's ruling junta will revert to using walkie-talkies after expressing concern that economic rival Singapore might be tapping its mobile phones, a newspaper reported yesterday.
A diplomatic spat over a visit to the city-state by deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra prompted Thailand's communications minister on Thursday to say that any phone operator tapping lines could have their license revoked.
According to the English-language Nation newspaper, the junta that overthrew Thaksin four months ago took it one step further, ordering the military to switch to two-way radio to avoid spying by Singapore.
"We will use more radio communications. We already have the equipment, so we'll just go back to our old tools," junta chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin was reported as saying.
The row stems from a meeting between Thaksin and one of Singapore's deputy prime ministers in the city-state last weekend. Thailand retaliated by suspending high level diplomatic meetings.
Then, on Wednesday, Sonthi said that although Singapore was not the enemy, it was an economic rival, and they could be keeping tabs on communications.
Thailand's biggest mobile phone operator, Advanced Info Service (AIS), is a subsidiary of Shin Corp, the telecom giant that Thaksin sold to Singapore's state-linked Temasek holdings in a controversial tax-free deal last year.
Somprasong Boonyachai, AIS managing director, late on Friday strongly rejected that his company conducted wiretapping, and said that if shareholders ordered them to carry out an illegal activity, they would refuse.
"We are all Thai and love our country, therefore we will not do that and we reassure [the junta] that we will notify Thai authorities immediately if there is such an order," he said.
There were reports last week that Sonthi had ordered key military leaders not to use AIS, but a spokesman from the Council for National Security (CNS), as the junta calls itself, on Friday rebutted the reports.
"The chairman of CNS has expressed his concern and warned every member to be more cautious about discussing classified issues on mobile phones," Colonel Sunsern Kaewkamnerd said.
Thaksin said in an interview that was to be broadcasted in full on CNN yesterday morning that he was innocent of wrongdoing over the Shin Corp sale.
He added that he went to Singapore to play golf and meet friends.
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