BANGKOK (AFP) — Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra has apologised to the Thai people after a group of the club's fans emblazoned his name on the national flag, a crime in his homeland.
The flag was unfurled reading "Thank you Thaksin" (???) during City's home loss to Fulham a week ago, a shock defeat that fuelled speculation that manager Sven-Goran Eriksson will be sacked.
Prime Minister Samak Sundarajev was not amused, while Thai police were reportedly mulling charges against the former premier for disrespecting the flag. In Thailand it is a crime to alter or deface the flag in any way.
"I regret the incident by Manchester City fans in England, who were trying to show their love for the club and for Thailand," Thaksin was quoted as saying in the Thai-language Daily News.
"It's OK in their culture, and once we explained the problem to them, they expressed their regret.
"I was there at the stadium and I saw it. At the time, I was caught up in the game, but soon afterwards we informed them of the problem and they agreed to stop.
"They understand the differences in our cultures, and they have conveyed their regret. I have explained the situation to Prime Minister Samak via a third person," he added.
Thaksin's lack of support for the embattled Eriksson has angered many City fans who almost unanimously came out in support of the Swede in the 1-0 defeat at Liverpool over the weekend.
Despite fears that he will be fired, Eriksson indicated on Sunday that he expected to lead the club on their end-of-season tour which includes a game in Thailand on May 17.
My Take: From the picture spread over the media, only "Thaksin" word on the lower white stripe of Thailand flag is visible. For Thais, red on the flag means the nation, white means religion and most importantly blue means the King. Therefore, having the name on the flag symbolize much more than westerner can imagine. And that's why this is very inappropriate and upset most Thai people.