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Fri, November 24, 2006 : Last updated 21:48 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > National > Activists call for MCOT delisting

Activists call for MCOT delisting

Petition to Supreme Administrative Court cites conflicts of interest, says airwaves are national property

Three activists petitioned the Supreme Administrative Court yesterday to cancel the privatisation of Mass Communication Organi-sation of Thailand, which is now MCOT Plc - a listed company since 2004.

The three are Veera Somkwamkid, secretary general of the People's Network against Corruption, and two anti-graft campaigners, Ratchanee Manmethee and Warit Chinsai.

They named deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra, his Cabinet and the PM's Office as those responsible for the privatisation.

In their writ, the complainants contend that as consumers of MCOT media services - considered public property - they have to right to dispute the privatisation.

They question the Cabinet resolution on July 20, 2004, leading to the dissolution of MCOT as a state-run enterprise and its transformation to a public company a month later.

They further state that the Finance Ministry, a major shareholder of MCOT, arbitrarily raised the registered capital from Bt3 billion to Bt3.8 billion in order to allocate 17.1 million newly-issued shares at Bt5 par value to company executives and employees.

The initial public offering of MCOT shares failed to ensure fair distribution of ownership and had resulted in lopsided equity stakes in favour of foreign investors and company staff, they claim.

Foreign investors now hold 12 per cent of equity, which allowed them increased presence in the media, an industry classed as of key interest to national security, they said.

Since privatisation, MCOT had been authorised to stop remitting its revenues obtained from concession fees for operating Channel 3, the UBC cable television service and 62 radio stations to state coffers, they said, noting that this was one of the costs to Thai society.

They claim that Thaksin had a conflict of interest in authorising the privatisation because he was then the shareholder of Shin Corp, which had the controlling stake of iTV - MCOT's major competitor.

They argue that the privatisation is illegal because airwaves are public property that cannot be transferred from a state enterprise to a listed company.

They cited the Administrative Court's cancellation of the Egat privatisation as a precedent for the MCOT case.

The court has yet to set a date to rule on the merit of the case.

In another anti-privatisation move, consumer advocate Saree Ongsomwan initiated a court battle in August seeking to take PTT Plc, the market leader in the petroleum industry, out of the stock market. The case is now under judicial review.

Kesinee Taengkhieo

 The Nation

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