Thursday, August 28, 2008

Banks beef up security staff, close branches for safety

Banks beef up security staff, close branches for safety


Local banks closed several branches yesterday due to security concerns over the massive rallies across Bangkok by anti-government protesters under the People's Alliance for Democracy.

Siam Commercial Bank, the country's third-largest bank, closed three sub-branches located on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Si Ayutthaya Road and at Rama Hospital, according to Praves Suttirat, a bank executive vice-president.

Transport routes for the bank's armoured vans bypassed roads such as Vibhavadi Rangsit, Ratchadamnoen, Si Ayutthaya, Phitsanulok and Nang Loeng that were occupied by PAD protesters. Security at the bank's headquarters at SCB Park was also tightened.

''We are tightening security for our employees, properties and clients,'' Mr Praves said.

SCB has made headlines over the past several days as the bank was ordered by the Revenue Department to transfer over 12 billion baht in funds held in frozen accounts of the family of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to cover unpaid taxes.

But PAD and members of the Assets Scrutiny Committee say any payment to the Revenue Department would be illegal, as the ASC's order freezing Mr Thaksin's accounts pending a corruption investigation takes precedence.

PAD leaders suspect that the Revenue Department order would eventually lead to the funds being returned to Mr Thaksin, who is now in exile and reportedly seeking political asylum in London. SCB has not transferred any funds pending legal clarification of the orders.

Bangkok Bank and Krung Thai Bank, the country's largest and second-largest banks, also closed several sub-branches due to the protests.

Bangkok Bank closed branches at the Civil Service Commission near Government House, at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and at the Maleenont Building.

State-owned Krung Thai Bank closed its branches at the Finance Ministry, the Revenue Department and at Government House.

Rachanee Nopmuang, a Bangkok Bank executive vice-president, said the branch closures were made strictly for security reasons.

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