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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        22  February 2011

Thai 3G deal faces legal scrutiny

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Thailand’s Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) wants clarification from CAT Telecom and TOT Plc on the deal between True Corporation and Hutchison and the 3G network expansion bid requirements because both cases may violate the Trade Competition Act.

The OAG's investigation unit is requiring CAT, the information and communications technology (ICT) minister and the TOT board to fully explain the deals.

Meanwhile, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has likened the True-CAT wholesale-resell deal to a concession contract.

Pisit Leelavachiropas, the OAG's acting governor, said his office is concerned the True-Hutch contract may violate the Trade Competition Act of 1999 if the lease is aimed at only one company while shutting out all others.

The OAG earlier sent a letter to the CAT board and ICT Minister Juti Krairiksh asking 14 key questions including why the state telecom enterprise hastily signed the contract with True without determining a frequency price or laying out clear details.

As no response has been received so far, another letter will be sent, Mr. Pisit told a seminar yesterday at the offices of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

Mr. Pisit said the 14-year contracts of True subsidiaries fall under the category of concession contracts and therefore may also violate the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act and frequency allocation regulations.

Under the main contract, CAT has not calculated the frequency price on top of the takeover price. "The deal highlights the ineffectiveness of the Public-Private Joint Venture Act and violates the law," he said.

Mr. Pisit said the OAG will this week call for clarification from TOT and the ICT minister as to why the state enterprise's specifications seem to have been designed for only a certain bidder. The investigation into TOT's bidding comes amid complaints the preliminary screening process for last month's 3G auction lacked transparency.

In that process, Ericsson of Sweden and ZTE of China were prohibited from entering an auction to build a nationwide 3G network worth 19.98 billion baht.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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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