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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        30  April 2011

Thailand’s “Elite Card” fiasco comes to an end

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The Thai cabinet this week decided to close down in 60 days the loss-ridden Thailand Privilege Card Co (TPC), operator of the Thailand Elite Card, the brainchild of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is now a fugitive from justice.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry, whose state agency the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is TPC's sole owner, was instructed to prepare to compensate the 2,500-odd members should any of them take legal action once their membership is revoked.

The ministry yesterday asked the government to set aside 2.5 billion baht to compensate members and staff once the company shuts down.

Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart said the cabinet turned down the request but asked the ministry to submit details for consideration next week at what is expected to be the final cabinet meeting of this government.

Elite Card, launched in 2003, promised fast-track immigration, discounts at resorts and golf courses and other perks.

With members paying 1 million baht (US$33,500) for a lifetime membership - prices later rose to 1.5 million - the goal was to attract a million subscribers in five years for revenue of 1 trillion baht.

Political changes and hyped services led to the Elite Card flop, with only 2,565 members from 65 countries in its eight years in operation. TPC reportedly suffers a debt burden of more than 1.4 billion baht.

Battling to survive, TPC two years ago sought cabinet approval to allow private investment in the company. But the request was rejected, as the government would not allow companies to make decisions on visa fees.

Pensuda Priaram, the TAT's deputy governor for tourism products and business, said the 60-day deadline for terminating the company and the card would be hard to meet under the rules.

The TAT must come up with 500 million baht to pay for overdue registered capital to pave the way for termination, and plans to seek the sum from the Budget Bureau.

Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the project should have been shut down a long time ago.

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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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