Beer heiress activist to change her name

BANGKOK - Ms Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, 27, contested on a Democrat Party ticket in a Bangkok constituency during the 2011 General Election - and lost.

Now she is back again under the banner of the self-styled People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest movement - fighting this time against the holding of another election.

But the Boonrawd Brewery heiress has been forced by her family - owners of the iconic Singha Beer, among other brands - to change her family name to avert a backlash against the clan and their brands. The family's fortune has been estimated at US$2.6 billion (S$3.3 billion).

On Monday, her father, Mr Jutinan Bhirombhakdi, in a statement released to the media, said: "As her father, I have discussed with her about her political views but our opinions differ.

"Chitpas still wants to pursue her political career.

"My wife and I, as well as Chitpas, discussed this option some time ago and agreed that (she) would change her family name."

Earlier, family patriarch Santi Bhirombhakdi had written to Mr Jutinan, saying that Ms Chitpas' political activism may negatively affect the family and its business.

His concerns were not unfounded. In the early hours of last Thursday, a small petrol bomb was hurled into the grounds of her house in Bangkok by four men on motorcycles. Nobody was injured.

On Monday, Mr Kwanchai Praiphana, a pro-government "red shirt" leader from Udon Thani, together with 400 supporters, protested against Ms Chitpas at the gates of the Khon Kaen Brewery in Khon Kaen, accusing her of insulting rural people.

The firm is reportedly affiliated with Boonrawd Brewery.

The controversy was triggered when Ms Chitpas told a news agency that many Thais lack a "true understanding of democracy... especially in the rural areas".

"We just need some time to reform the country before we can move on to democracy," she said.

The PDRC wants to derail the Feb 2 polls and have an appointed "people's council" institute reforms before any elections.

Ms Chitpas has been leading marches in Bangkok for the PDRC.

The heiress formerly known as Bhirombhakdi will this week decide which family name to use. It will most probably be her mother's name, Kritdakorn, her assistant said over the phone.

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