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NEWS UPDATES 21 August 2010

Opinions fly at “foreign dominance “ hearing

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The Thailand National Telecommunications Commission held a public hearing about its proposed rule to curb “foreign dominance” in the telecoms sector .

The rule was announced prior to the 3G spectrum auction that is scheduled for the end of September and has stirred up controversy.

Narupon Rattanasaharn, head of the regulatory section of telecom firm, DTAC, said the commission sped the bill through to stigmatize foreigners ahead of the 3G auction. He said there was no reason to impose the rule under existing regulations as long as foreign investors obeyed the law and did not dominate the market. Telenor of Norway acquired DTAC in 2000.

DTAC claims that the move benefits True Move, the only Thai majority-owned firm among the top three mobile operators

Countering that was the CEO of True Corp, Suphachai Chearavanont, who said that his company lost a foreign investor because of the proposed rule. Nonetheless, he supported the rule, citing “national security”. The company plans to let foreigners hold up to 49 percent of the new subsidiary that will operate the 3G spectrum.

The head of the other foreign owned telecom, AIS, Somprasong Boonyachai, said he wanted the commission to seek a wider range of opinion from others including the Commerce and Finance ministries.

The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand recommended the rule should be discarded as it was fundamentally flawed. Chairman Robert Fox, said the draft was not in the best interests of Thailand's telecommunications industry or the economy. It seems to be inconsistent with other government policies that encourage foreign investment, he added.

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