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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        16  June  2011

Thai foreign ownership rules again in spotlight

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The Thai Commerce Ministry may propose an amendment to the Foreign Business Act to close the gap that leads to different interpretations and legal wrangling over foreign-linked companies, including Total Access Communication (DTAC).

The shareholding issue would be central to the amendment, as the law now focuses on factual figures, not the sense of ultimate ownership.

Regarding the DTAC case, "The Business Development Department will look into the shareholder list and balance sheets as disclosed to the Thai and overseas exchange authorities. The report should be ready in the next few days."

The department will call a news conference today.

Kiat Sittheeamorn, president of the Thailand Trade Representative Office, who has tracked the ownership of Shin Corp, acknowledged that the process of proving the nationality of a company was complicated, as it involved a money trail. Likewise, to prove whether DTAC is a Thai or a foreign company, investigation into investments, shareholding ratios and the distribution of returns to shareholders would be necessary.

He noted that it was clear that Kularb Kaew Ltd, a piece of the Shin Corp jigsaw, is a nominee given that Thai shareholders share in only 3-4 per cent of returns against about 50 per cent holding.

The public prosecutors cannot pursue the case, though, given the missing Kularb Kaew shareholder.

The issue flared up again after TrueMove's complaint to the Crime Suppression Division that DTAC was a foreign-owned entity, operating in circumvention of the Foreign Business Act. Norway's Telenor and its local strategic partner DTAC both quickly released statements yesterday countering the complaint, affirming that Telenor's ownership in DTAC complied with Thai laws and regulations.

At a seminar yesterday on the political parties' policies on information and communications technology, politicians expressed surprise with True's move.

Buranat Samutharak, spokesman of the Democrat Party, said he had doubts over why TrueMove initiated the complaint, as it was the duty of the state agencies, not the private telecom operators, to examine which companies may or may not circumvent the Foreign Business Act and bring them to prosecution.

The complaint "is just to make it become front-page news, which hurts both of them", he added. The Foreign Business Act, like the Telecom Business Act, caps foreign shareholding in Thai firms at 49 percent.






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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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