Flag bearing Thaksin's name upsets PM
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Thaksin Shinawatra might not be happy with Saturday's home defeat of his Manchester City football club. But many Thais, including Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, were upset for another reason _ seeing a national flag bearing his name hanging at the stadium.
A flag bearing the first name of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is seen hanging at the City of Manchester Stadium during a match on April 26. It is against law in Thailand to print any name on the national flag.
The flag with Mr Thaksin's name on it became a hot topic yesterday after a picture of it appeared in the Matichon newspaper. The focus was on whether it was appropriate. The prime minister felt it was not and called for an explanation from Mr Thaksin.
'It is inappropriate,' Mr Samak said at Government House. 'It must not happen again.'
The flag was displayed on Saturday at the City of Manchester Stadium, where Mr Thaksin, the team owner, was a spectator. His team lost 3-2 to Fulham.
Mr Samak said Mr Thaksin should have complained if he saw the flag.
Under Article 53 of the 1979 Flag Act, affixing pictures, letters, numbers or other symbols upon the national flag is against the law with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and/or a 2,000 baht fine.
A regulation of the Prime Minister's Office, issued by the Thaksin administration in 2004, also prohibits private entities from putting up the national flag for commercial proposes.
But the laws cannot be applied in this case as it happened in England.
Mr Thaksin's former and present aides defended him, saying their boss and the football club had nothing to do with it.
Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, who was Mr Thaksin's legal adviser before joining the cabinet, said the flag's artwork was the work of football fans.
Mr Thaksin's spokeswoman Sansanee Nakpong suspected it was the work of people wanting to fan social divisions.
'Please do not jump to conclusions. No one would be happy seeing their name on the national flag,' she said.
She maintained that Mr Thaksin supported reconciliation and this was reflected in his call not to link his name to anything political.
Democrat deputy secretary-general Thepthai Senpong urged Mr Thaksin to warn football fans, or to issue a club rule banning the use of his name on the Thai flag.