THAILAND'S culture minister Uraiwan Thienthong, resigned early this month from the cabinet, citing her responsibility to uphold "the ethics of good governance", amid a growing public outcry against the leadership of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister.
Mr Thaksin has come in for criticism following his family's Bt73bn ($1.9bn, euro1.5bn, £1.1bn) sale of a 49 per cent stake in Shin Corp, the telecommunications conglomerate he founded, to Singapore's Temasek Holdings.
Thailand's finance minister, Thanong Bidaya, says the complicated deal - the largest takeover in Thai corporate history - fully conformed with Thai law.
But among the Thai public, the Shinawatra family's Bt73bn tax-free windfall, and the perception that they received preferential treatment from authorities, has sparked a furore that is rapidly undermining Mr Thaksin's nurtured image as the champion of the poor.
Questions persist about potential insider trading, violations of stock market disclosure rules, the skirting of the telecom sector's foreign equity limits and stock market regulators' commitment to protecting minority shareholders.
Announcing her resignation on February 03, Ms Uraiwan did not express any specific concerns over the Shin Corp deal, saying only: "I don't understand share deals, but what I care about is that political ethics be upheld."
Ms Uraiwan's husband, Sanoh, leads a faction within Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) party, and her decision to step down may signal imminent defections form the ruling party, which could create fresh political headaches for the premier.
Her resignation also came a day before an anti-Thaksin rally, led by the media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul, a former Thaksin supporter who has become a fierce critic and has recently been campaigning to unseat him.
Before the Shin Corp sale, Mr Sondhi's efforts seemed to be fading because of lack of public interest.
But with the public mood shifting, prominent academics lately called for Mr Thaksin to step down, accusing him of tolerating corruption and failing to solve problems, such as violence in the Muslim south. Mr Thaksin rebuffed the demand.
Under syndication arrangement with FE