ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Concession issues muddle Thai telecoms
The Foreign and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministries of Singapore have asked Advanced Info Service (AIS) to send them a fact-finding report for discussions with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on AIS' concession amendments that are being investigated, says an industry source.
Singapore Telecom (SingTel), majority-owned by Temasek Holdings, the Singaporean government's investment arm, owns 21 percent of Temasek through AIS's parent Shin Corp. Somprasong Boonyachai, executive chairman of Shin, did not acknowledge any movement from SingTel on the issue.
Anuparp Thiralarp, an independent telecom expert, acknowledged the move by SingTel but said it was a panic move because AIS's concession changes have not yet been ruled illegal. However, he believes the government's attempt to tackle concession changes to the AIS contract will collapse as the state cannot take action on AIS alone.
ICT Minister Chuti Krairiksh said the ministry could not raise the AIS concession issue at the cabinet meeting yesterday because the conclusions from the Section 22 committee for TOT and CAT Telecom were different from another committee's results that were set up by the ICT Ministry to investigate irregularities found by the Section 22 committee.
"The ICT Ministry is waiting for a similar conclusion from the two committees before submitting anything to the cabinet," said Mr Chuti, adding the issue would be raised in the cabinet by February.
Sirichoke Sopha, a Democrat Party MP and a close aide to the prime minister, said it would not be unusual for the Singapore government to get involved in AIS's problems. But he added facts will decide the fate of the concession.
A stock analyst who asked not to be named said the recent move by Temasek Holdings to sell its shares in a few companies in Thailand could be translated as soft pressure on the Thai government to negotiate a solution to the AIS concession dilemma.
AIS, the country's largest mobile operator, announced yesterday it allocated a budget of 10 billion baht to expand network capacity and enhance service quality this year. Some 7.5 billion is slated to upgrade the existing 2G network to accommodate continuous subscriber growth. The remaining 2.5 billion will be used to increase its 3G base stations on the existing 900-megahertz frequency.
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