ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thaksin's ghost hangs over Thai telecoms
With fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra now a citizen of Montenegro, the Thai government insists that it is not singling out his old telecom firm, Advanced Info Service, in its investigations into telecom concession amendments.
All concessions between private telecom companies and state enterprises would be treated fairly and impartially, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) minister Chuti Krairiksh said yesterday.
He insisted he would submit the conclusions from an investigative committee to the cabinet once information on all aspects of the concession changes was clear.
He said the government needed to proceed carefully and be mindful of the implications for state enterprise officials if it is proved that they agreed to changes that resulted in financial losses for the government. Section 157 of the Criminal Code covers negligence by state officials resulting in losses or damage.
The ICT Ministry set up the so-called Section 22 committee to investigate a series of amendments made over nearly 15 years to the contracts between private companies and their concession owners, TOT Plc and CAT Telecom.
It found that concession changes between AIS and TOT did not meet the requirements under Section 22 of the 1992 Public-Joint Venture Act, which requires special scrutiny for ventures worth 1 billion baht or more.
The ministry also set up another committee to investigate irregularities found by the Section 22 committee before they are submitted to the cabinet.
The concessions of the top three players - Advanced Info Service, DTAC and True Move - have come under heavy scrutiny by the Democrat-led government. AIS, founded by Thaksin, has drawn most of the attention as officials focus on agreements that favoured companies linked to the telecoms tycoon-turned-politician.
Concessions of AIS, DTAC and True Move had been changed several times under different conditions and for different purposes. The concessions of each operator run out at different times: True Move in 2013, AIS in 2015 and DTAC in 2018.
However, a legal expert has warned of the prospect of double jeopardy, stating that no one should be tried or punished twice for the same offense.
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