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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        26  April 2011

Lawsuit now part of Thai telecom story

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There is one word for the Thai telecom industry-confused. The situation has worsened as the #2 player-DTAC has filed a petition with a Thai court to block a deal between its government concession firm, CAT Telecom and the #3 telecom firm, True Corporation.

‘‘We deserve equal rights and a level playing field,’’ says DTAC chief executive officer Jon Eddy Abdullah, discussing the company’s court petition yesterday. DTAC is owned by Telenor of Norway, while True is part of Charoen Pokphand Group, Thailand’s largest business conglomerate.

The country's second-largest mobile operator asked for a "temporary suspension" of m

obile network expansion under the True-CAT contract, pending a court ruling on the deal.

CAT Telecom feels strongly that it will proceed with plans to expand the 3G wireless broadband network under the contract signed with True's two subsidiaries, Real Move and Real Future.

Suphachai Chearavanont, the chief executive of True Corp, condemned its bigger rival's attempt to stop the process through the courts. "If DTAC doesn't want to help [to develop 3G], then don't screw it up," he said.

"The move makes DTAC look bad [in an attempt] to obstruct us, based on the fact that it already has more financial support and a longer concession life, another seven years," he said.

True Move has only two years left on its concession with CAT. However, after it took over the small Hutch business in which CAT was also a shareholder, the two parties signed a new 14-year agreement to develop a 3G network and market the services.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, the vice-chairman of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the deal amounted to a "pseudo-concession" and should be investigated for compliance with the law.

But Mr. Suphachai reiterated that the deal was a "natural business agreement under the new telecom regime", not the old-fashioned monopoly system in which the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act was often applied.

If the court accepts the DTAC complaint, Mr. Suphachai asked who would take responsibility for the 800,000 Hutch customers who could be left without service.

DTAC wants the court to scrap the CAT board's approval of the contract signing with True, terminate all business activities arising from the contracts, and suspend all work until a final ruling.

The company said it had no choice but to file the case because the government had shown no serious intent to do anything to protect the public interest. It said authorities had not proved that the contract complied with the Frequency Allocation Act and with Section 46 of 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act.

Abdullah said the contract also breached competition rules.

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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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